A Regional Sampling
By Brenda Kramer
UW-RF Public Affairs
Set in the heart of Wisconsin's fast-growing region, UW-River Falls has forged numerous relationships with business, industry, education and government. Those collaborations are helping rural western Wisconsin adjust to the pressures as the 2.5-million resident Twin Cities metropolitan area continues to grow eastward.
A sampling of some UW-RF activities:
oEconomics professor Glenn Potts directs the Center for Economic Research. In 2002, CER's mission expanded to specifically support research pertaining to economic development in the region. Recent projects have included an Internet capabilities survey of communities for the St. Croix Economic Development Corporation; community assistance economic research for Amery, Wis.; a survey of business information technology needs to develop training offerings; and research white papers and presentation seminars, as well as other activities.
oLeon Zaborowski is the dean of the newly reorganized division of Outreach and Graduate Studies. Based on input from regional constituents, OGS's mission is to meet workforce education needs. In addition to graduate degree programs, OGS offers several credit and noncredit professional certificates and distance learning courses. Through a recent Title III grant, OGS is expanding its workforce educational offerings. It has also sponsored a regional workshop on land use planning and property rights.
oThe Regional Development Institute houses the Survey Research Center, the Agriculture Resource Center, UW Cooperative Extension, and the Pierce County Economic Development Corp. Many community and regional projects are underway through these entities, including a township survey on government consolidation efforts. UW Cooperative Extension recently hosted the nationally renowned "Your Town" workshops, cosponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
oThe second largest seed-testing company in the world, Biodiagnostics, was helped in its early stages by the Agriculture Resource Center and other economic development collaborators. More than half of its employees are alumni, and 20 student interns are lab assistants. Moreover, biology Professor Brad Mogen is working with the company to develop a protocol for the properties of soybean lineage through DNA analysis, made possible by a grant from the Wisconsin Legislature, which noted the direct impact of the innovative project on the economy.
oThe Small Business Development Center has served about 225 clients since its inception in 2000. Consulting services are free, and SBDC offers low-cost or free small business classes assisted by grants from the Department of Commerce. Through the classes, several entrepreneurs have developed business plans and subsequently launched businesses, such as Sue Strick of Sauces Unlimited LLC in Baldwin. Recently, the SBDC partnered with area economic development corporations to investigate the viability of a small business incubator in River Falls, says Kathy Bartelt, SBDC director.
oChemistry Professors Daniel Marchand and Lisa Kroutil are conducting a laboratory evaluation of ceramics created by Phillips Plastics Research and Technology Center in Prescott, Wis. One of the largest private employers in Wisconsin, Phillips Plastics seeks opportunities to expand its material-based expertise, and through the partnership, has begun examining the use of ceramic materials for biotechnology applications.
oSuccess in recruiting the Kansas City Chiefs Summer Training Camp more than a decade ago has helped generate more than $25 million in economic impact and put the camp, the university and the region on the map. Moreover, since 1993, the St. Croix Valley Regional Tourism Alliance (SCVRTA) has worked cooperatively with UW-RF to promote tourism and economic development with funding from the Kellogg Foundation, Wisconsin and Minnesota state tourism grants, and a NorthernEDGE e-commerce grant.
oThe U.S. National Park Service, at St. Croix National Scenic Riverway headquarters in St. Croix Falls, Wis., provides several opportunities for collaboration. Through an NPS partnership grant, UW-RF has offered regional workshops on the riverway's future. The NPS, UW-RF and the group Watchable Wildlife are developing a 12-credit certificate in environmental tourism. Internships are available at NPS headquarters in marketing communications, conservation, natural resources management, environmental studies, GIS/cartography and other disciplines. In addition, students in geography Professor Charles Rader's geographic information systems and cartography courses have worked on numerous riverway projects.
oOne trend within the last five years is to expand articulation partnerships with regional technical colleges, says George Hansen, UW-RF assistant director of admissions. "Our College of Business and Economics is reviewing agreements with a number of Minnesota colleges, including Pine County, South East Minnesota and Dakota County technical colleges." Others include transfer agreements from two-year programs in horticulture, food science, agriculture and business with tech colleges throughout the two states.
oAnnual career fairs typically bring more Twin Cities employers than those in immediate vicinity, says Carmen Croonquist, director of the Personal and Professional Development Center at UW-RF. The center also links employers with graduating seniors and alumni through an online resume referral service. -30-
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