Dream a Little Dream For Your State's Economy -- It Might Come True

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Dec. 24, 2004--One Mid-Western school's dream is another school's reality when it comes to venturing to improve their states' economies.

Northern Kentucky University has dreamed up a plan that will consist of eight programs geared toward teaching and funding entrepreneurship, supporting existing knowledge-based firms, establishing a software-development think tank, as well as other programs designed to cultivate business-minded creativity from the 85% of Kentucky's college graduates that stay in the Bluegrass State.

"When you have a university thinking consistently about the economy, it really sets our region apart from other parts of the state," Steve Stevens, senior vice president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce said.

Currently, Kentucky ranks 46th out of the 50 states in entrepreneurial opportunity and this plan looks to give that low ranking a shot in the arm -- but it won't come cheaply. The purposed Partnership for Regional Economic Progress has an annual price tag $24 million for rollout with $9 million expected to keep it going annually.

"We're pretty excited about it," NKU president James Votruba said. "The community has requested that we promote economic growth in our region."

If NKU is dreaming about this kind of economic interaction from their university, then the folks at the University of Indiana just pinched themselves.

The Hoosiers recently received a grant in the sum of $53 million from the Lilly Endowment, earmarked to assist the university in unlocking the secrets of cells -- and the Indiana health-science economy, hopefully.

"This grant will dramatically accelerate the pace of change and discovery," IU President, Adam W. Herbert said in a speech.

Until now the largest grant given to IU was from Steak n Shake founder E.W. Kelley who gave $23 million to fund what is now the E.W. Kelley School of Business.

The university plans to spend most of the money recruiting and retaining top talent, with the rest going to a second science research facility, an upgrade to the school's supercomputer as well as a 10,000-pound Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometer.

"Our engines have been running on kerosene," Kumble Subbaswamy, dean of the College of Art and Sciences said. "Our other partners are running on high-octane, today, we have received a large supply of rocket fuel."

The money will also go toward funding entrepreneurial ventures in health-science-related fields, such as a start-up company in the works by two IU professors that analyzes proteins in human plasma that may indicate disease.

With these two Mid-Western schools taking aim at transforming their industrial economies, the lifeblood for entrepreneurial ventures in the America's Heartland may be the state schools.

"It's an ambitious project but we'll need ambitious goals to hit our target," Stevens said.





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