Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Office of Economic Development and Engagement
Soon the legislative and budget seasons will be upon us. We have worked hard to grow, save and invest to best position ourselves for the inevitable budget deficit in 2011-12. It will be several months before we know the full picture of the fiscal realities, yet I believe our efforts will sustain us through these tough times.
As you know, I have focused on growing the University so that we are not so dependent upon state resources. I look forward to the time when we will not look upon the spring legislative season with trepidation and uncertainty. Our local delegation works hard on our behalf, but as I said in my State of the University Address, we must take control of our future. I believe we are moving in the right direction.
As we think about our future and current economic challenges, I believe there is an organizational shift we can make that will allow us to be relevant to our region and constituents, contribute more broadly to economic development initiatives, and align ourselves for growth in funding.
We all know the current global recession has put a spotlight on the role universities can play in the recovery and growth of the state’s economy. As a regional university, our primary focus is producing high quality graduates who can serve the workforce needs of our state. That will never change; it is our hallmark.
However, our external constituencies are calling on us to contribute in broader ways. Tallahassee is laser-focused on economic development, job creation and the bolstering of the state economy. We all know Governor Scott was elected on the promise to bring 700,000 new jobs to Florida and make it easier to do business in Florida. Additionally, State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan’s New Florida initiative calls for Florida universities to play an increased role in economic development initiatives throughout the state. He is requesting $100 million in recurring funds over the next 10 years for this effort. He received $10 million for the initiative this year, and UWF received $350,000 of those funds. Chancellor Brogan has since called upon each university to demonstrate its role in economic development and job growth, not just by producing an educated work force, but through research, patents, intellectual property, business incubators, grants, community engagement and partnerships.
UWF is fortunate to have two unique assets in economic and business development. We are host to the only statewide network and center for job creation, the Florida Small Business Development Network, with 35 outreach centers across the state. We also house the Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development that currently plays a strong role in providing economic research and data to our region and the state.
In order to maximize the effectiveness of these two assets and create synergy for the University, I have created the new Office of Economic Development and Engagement (OEDE). It will offer a unified vision and approach to UWF’s participation in economic development initiatives and provide critical counsel to me regarding private sector needs. Housed within the Division of the President, the OEDE will serve as an umbrella unit for the Haas Center and the Florida Small Business Development Center Network (FSBDCN). The OEDE will be led by Dr. Rick Harper.
The Haas Center will maintain a relationship with the College of Business for purposes of collaboration and research. The local SBDC will remain in the College of Business. I want to stress that no additional funding will be provided to the new office.
I believe this is a unique opportunity for UWF to create new revenue streams and take the lead in the economic recovery of the Northwest Florida region, while providing critical information and new outreach to the entire state. By joining these two unique entities, the Hass Center and FSBDN, we as a university can make a more exclusive and significant contribution to our state’s economic recovery that no other SUS institution can match.
I hope you will join with me in support of Dr. Harper and the new Office of Economic Development and Engagement.