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Last updated:

March 2, 2001

Forward Wisconsin Inventories UW-RF Biotech

By Jolene Bracy
UW-RF News Bureau

The cutting-edge programs offered in biotechnology and sciences at UW- River Falls, provide a wealth of opportunity for growth and development for the future success of the community.

A team from Forward Wisconsin visited the UW-RF campus Thursday seeking to join forces with University officials to promote the relocation and start-up of new businesses in the area. Forward Wisconsin representatives Scott Reigstad and Melanie Platt-Gibson, a UW-RF alumnae, met with Chancellor Ann Lydecker and faculty to discuss how UW-RF and quasi-public agency can partner to bolster the regionšs economy.

Forward Wisconsin, a unique public-private marketing firm, is a not-for-profit organization responsible for out of state business marketing and attraction of new business to Wisconsin. The budget for Forward Wisconsin is $1 million, more than half of that funding is provided by the private sector. The rest of the funding comes through a state contract with the Department of Commerce. Gov. Scott McCallum is chairman of the board

It routinely sponsors team visits to the Twin Cities, Minnesota and other surrounding states to lure businesses to relocated to Wisconsin.

A key relationship between the agency and UW-RF is biotechnology. Wisconsin is rated as one of the Top 10 biotechnology states in the nation. Wisconsin's recent state-wide New Economy summit in Milwaukee identified biotechnology as a critical sector in which Wisconsin holds a commanding edge for future development.

Twelve years ago, UW-RF launched a biotechnology program as an interdepartmental major, offered by the departments of biology, chemistry, plant and earth science, and animal and food Science. As the use of biotechnology increases with the invention of new consumer products and services, so will the demand for graduates. Reigstad and Platt-Gibson sought to develop a connection between the University and businesses and entrepreneurs who want to re-locate or develop businesses in the area.

In addition to biotechnology, Reigstad, cited a Forward Wisconsin study that noted western Wisconsin is ripe for development in such areas of high technology computer-based programming as plastics and forestry. With biotechnology, all three are in the top 10 targeted areas for growth in the state, Reigstad said.

"We see a propensity for growth in this region, where we can increase economic diversity and expansion," Platt-Gibson said. "W e need UW-RF to be a part of our team."

The University welcomed the partnership overtures, said Chancellor Ann Lydecker, because the collaboration will grow high tech jobs across several sectors of the St. Croix Valley's economy.

"We hope to play a visible role in enticing high-tech and bio-tech companies to explore our region for locating their new or existing business," said Lydecker. New academic programs at UW-RF and educational partnerships with the region's technical colleges will provide the highly educated workforce high tech industries are seeking, Lydecker said. She added that relocating or developing those industries also will help to stem Wisconsin's "brain drain" of highly skilled, highly paid residents who migrate to other states.

UW-RF plans to expand its credit transfer undergraduate and graduate agreements with two-year institutions to provide more seamless opportunities for growing the technical skills of the region's work force, Lydecker added.

The St. Croix Valley's proximity to the Twin Cities, its well-educated labor force and UW-RF faculty consulting expertise and the availability of student interns are a large part of soliciting businesses to locate. Quality of life issues such as the proxmity of River Falls to the Twin Cities for easy acceess to cultural activities, the region's rural lifestyle and small-town atmosphere will help attract new businesses to the region.

"We want to know what UW-RF's strengths are to provide the greatest growth and economic opportunities," said Platt-Gibson. "We want to do whatever we can to show the rest of the world what UW-RF can do."

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