Universities aim to reshape state economy
As MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon addressed a gathering of about 20 people Friday, her message was clear: MSU has a hand in revitalizing Michigan.
Joined by University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and Wayne State University President Jay Noren, Simon helped map out the research goals of Michigan’s three largest public universities for the coming year.
The universities constitute a research consortium launched three years ago called the University Research Corridor, or URC. The URC’s overarching goal is to combine each school’s resources to help reshape Michigan’s devastated economy.
In addition to discussing the universities’ goals, the three chief executive officers unveiled the URC’s new headquarters at 500 E. Michigan Ave., in Lansing.
“(The goals are) sort of a road map of sorts to help maximize the URC’s potential over time,” Simon said.
URC by the numbers
Data gathered from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008
Full-time equivalent employees: 48,786
Enrolled students: 133,469
Alumni living in Michigan: 572,123
Combined wage/salary earnings for alumni of URC schools: $26.6 billion
Source: University Research Corridor, Anderson Economic Group
On the horizon
URC Executive Director Jeff Mason laid out five specific goals the consortium will focus on in the coming year.
He said the URC will work to increase research collaboration among the three universities, increase awareness of the URC and its mission, support business recruitment and development, partner with more colleges and universities in the state and assist in the revitalization of major metropolitan areas in Michigan.
Mason said the three schools will combine their assets, partner with the state to encourage business development, work with economic development organizations on a local level across the state and consult with community leaders in metropolitan areas to accomplish their goals.
“The URC was founded by these three presidents … to leverage the power of these three institutions,” Mason said. “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”
Coleman said the goals will help reshape the future of industry and economic development in the state.
“Michigan was very entrepreneurial at the beginning of the last century, but somehow we got complacent and we lost that,” Coleman said.
“But we know it’s here, we know the spirit is here. We want to get that back.”
Simon said the goals will combine the institutions’ resources to forge the best outcome for the state.
Simon cited U-M’s North Campus Research Complex, a former Pfizer Inc. facility that will be used as lab space for researching health and biomedical sciences, as a way for the institutions to combine assets.
“When you go there, you don’t sever your ties with the people you are working with,” Simon said.
“In that space, there will be the University of Michigan activities, (but) there’s also a way to … take a Michigan State idea that needs lab space and go there and it can flourish all to our collective good.”
The presidents discussed other projects when one university took the lead in a way that collectively will benefit the three.
Noren said the upcoming Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, or FRIB, at MSU is one such instance.
“It really was an MSU proposal and an MSU grant,” Noren said.
“Neither the University of Michigan nor Wayne State had a direct stake in that, but together we advocated very … effectively in favor of that.”
The presidents also released a report from the Anderson Economic Group detailing the URC’s economic impact in Michigan.
The report found that since the URC’s inception, its net economic impact on the state has grown from $12.9 billion in the 2006 fiscal year to, most recently, $14.5 billion, a growth of $1.6 billion.
The most recent data was taken from numbers from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008.
Noren said the number represents a $16 return for every $1 the state invests in the three schools.
“The economic impact is very powerful,” Noren said.
The report also found combined, the universities have $7.3 billion in operational expenditures. The presidents said the money invested by the three institutions ultimately will be beneficial to the state as a whole.
“We want to be a positive force for reinventing our state and shaping the new Michigan,” Simon said.**