UA-27956762-2

Virginia’s University Based Economic Development Officers

Award Category: Leadership and Collaboration
Project Site: Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development
Submitted By: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Contact: John Provo
540.231.4004

Abstract

Virginia is recognized for a rich array of higher education resources. This system of autonomous public and private institutions impacts economic development through the work of Virginia’s University Based Economic Development officers (UBED).

UBED meeting participants include state supported 4-year degree granting instititutions, economic development agencies, community colleges, private non-profit institutions, and industry.  These meetings provide a forum for sharing best practices across higher education institutions and exposing agencies and industry to the assets found in Virginia’s universities.  UBED is also professionalizing the practice of university-based economic development in the state.

In 2012 UBED’s role became more formalized  through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), the Chair of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System, and the presidents of Virginia’s 15 public four-year degree-granting institutions. This MOU affirms that the parties will intentionally leverage the capabilities of Virginia’s institutions of higher education for economic development outcomes.  UBED and the staff of VEDP were designated to operationalize this MOU, which we believe is one-of-a-kind in the United States. Virginia is now home to several university-industry collaborations spanning multiple schools and involving major industry partners in areas including advanced manufacturing, environmental design, life sciences, logistics and nuclear engineering.

Under the MOU, UBED and VEDP are currently exploring opportunities for international campus locations and international business development offices and alumni networks and gubernatorial trade missions to generate new leads for economic developers and new private sector resources for universities.

For over seven years, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership has been pleased to serve as a member of this coalition.

Purely volunteer, and without full-time staff, this UBED team connects the significant assets of Virginia’s higher education resources, creating a seamless portal for Virginia’s economic development professionals to more effectively engage with our higher education partners.  Through the years of its development, UBED professionals have developed trusted-partner relationships with each other resulting in more real-time connection of resources that serve the diverse business and community needs in Virginia. Relevant economic development outcomes include:

  • Identifying unique opportunities for collaborative partnerships, resulting in competitive responses to strategic grant opportunities.
  • Support of state economic development marketing strategies, leveraging alumni networks across the country to participate in marketing missions led by our Governor.
  • Creation of higher ed “fast facts” sheets that are incorporated into the website of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
  • Most importantly at this time, the UBED team is the operational planning team designated by the University Presidents, to work with VEDP in developing the operational action plan for the VEDP/Institutions of Higher Education Marketing Partnership, established in 2012 through a one-of-a-kind Memorandum of Understanding.

Virginia’s University-Based Economic Development Officers team is a resource, a partner, and a thought-leader for Virginia’s economic development ecosystem.

Liz Povar

Case Study

Problem/Background

The University-Based Economic Development team in Virginia was launched in the mid-2000s as an initiative of the director of economic development for Virginia Tech, Ted Settle, who recognized that a better linkage among Virginia’s autonomous universities could lead to stronger economic development outcomes.  Because each university in Virginia had an identified economic development liaison, Settle was able to reach out to this group and through regular meetings, began to build an alliance and knowledge network that found common ground in their work, even though each representative was organizationally housed in differing functions within their own institutions.

The challenge in Virginia that confronted the economic development organizations – state, regional and local – in the mid-2000s was the absence of a portal into higher education resources.  And without such a portal, Virginia’s economic development program was missing a key link – that of bringing to bear the capabilities of higher education resources to economic development prospects.

In an effort to address this issue, the UBED team early on asked for representation from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership to serve on the team.  Through this systematic interaction, trust was built and knowledge shared in such a way that the economic development efforts began to more effectively utilize higher education resources, both in marketing and in work with specific business prospects.

Solution

In 2012 UBED’s role became more formalized  through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), the Chair of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System, and the presidents of Virginia’s 15 public four-year degree-granting institutions. This MOU affirms that the parties will intentionally leverage the capabilities of Virginia’s institutions of higher education for economic development outcomes.  UBED and the staff of VEDP were designated to operationalize this MOU, which we believe is one-of-a-kind in the United States. Virginia is now home to several university-industry collaborations spanning multiple schools and involving major industry partners in areas including advanced manufacturing, environmental design, life sciences, logistics and nuclear engineering.

The MOU itself is quite innovative in its form and function.  The agreement simultaneously outlines specific shared goals while providing ample opportunity for the various institutions – with different missions, curricula, and research foci – to contribute to those outcomes in ways that flow from each schools unique strengths and assets.  No institution is expected to start from scratch, halt or reverse direction; while some aspects of the memorandum are new initiatives, it was intended as a ‘no harm’ tool toward integration of strategic activities in the interests of all.

Under the MOU, UBED and VEDP are currently exploring opportunities for international campus locations and international business development offices and alumni networks and gubernatorial trade missions to generate new leads for economic developers and new private sector resources for universities.  The University-Based Economic Development team has further provided a variety of assistance as it has evolved through the years.  What started as an opportunity for each university’s representative to learn about its counterparts’ capabilities evolved into a variety of collaborative activities that support economic development outcomes.  Examples are below:

  • Higher Education snapshot briefs. These short documents, reviewed and updated annually, are used by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership as content for its marketing website.  The snapshots capture the elemental information about each higher education partner, along with any significant capabilities, and incorporate a point of contact for the university.
  • Website linkages.  As a result of the UBED team’s efforts, each university’s website is now linked to the VEDP website, allowing businesses to drill deeper into each higher ed partner’s information.
  • Learning tours.  UBED team members have hosted learning or familiarization tours for state, regional and local economic developers.  The purpose of the tours generally aligns with assets that support state or regional initiatives, and creates an environment in which personal relationships can be built and increased.
  • Responding to business prospect proposals.  The Virginia Economic Development Partnership is the Commonwealth’s lead agency to coordinate responses for inclusion in proposals for economic development prospects.  Issuing an “all-call” to UBED team members for content for selected proposals, VEDP has improved its proposal messages by receiving and including responses from UBED team members.
  • Leveraging alumni networks.  Virginia’s higher education institutions have deep and extensive alumni networks that include influential executives in businesses across the world.  By coordinating with the UBED team, VEDP has leveraged these networks as a part of the Governor’s economic development missions, inviting alumni to Governor’s receptions and setting up one-on-one appointments with executives in companies in which Virginia’s higher education alumni are employed.  The result is amplification of Virginia’s business-friendly message across the world.
  • Collaborative responses to funding opportunities.  The UBED team members have partnered on several significant grant proposals, including the recent Make It In America Challenge.  These proposals are stronger because of the collaborative partnerships which utilize the strengths of each university.

Results

UBED and its implementation of the MOU between VEDP, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the Virginia Community College System, and all 15 of Virginia’s public four-year degree-granting institutions represents an innovative solution to a challenge faced by many states. While top-notch teaching and research are required for economic competitiveness, responsive and collaborative systems are critical to leverage those assets effectively. UBED and the MOU bring a unique capacity for collaboration to a non-unitary statewide system of higher education. This approach maintains the benefits of diversity flowing from our autonomous system while delivering results beyond what many of our peers in unitary systems can identify.

Through the steps described earlier, state economic development partners will see increased opportunities to interact with more companies and at deeper levels.  University networks opened to them will create new relationships, both with companies interested in moving to Virginia and companies already in Virginia looking to expand their operations.  University partners will similarly see increased opportunities to interact with more companies and at deeper levels.  Engagement facilitated by economic development partners will open new opportunities for collaboration in areas like research, continuing education, student internships and placements.

Future Considerations

The beauty of this effort is its simplicity. The main ingredients are the patience required for the relationship building involved and the recognition across the state of the value of the university’s convening power. Value was added to economic development resources at the individual universities trough this networking and collaboration which will sustain these positions within their organizations.  As we continue under the MOU and the flow of information increases we do anticipate scalability issues with data management and limited resource requests are pending with our state agency partners to address those.


Finalist Presentation

UEDA Awards of Excellence Finalists presented at the Annual Summit in Pittsburgh on October 28, 2013. Summit attendees then voted for the best initiative in each category.

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Contact Us

University Economic Development Association
PO Box 97930
Pittsburgh, PA 15227

216.200.UEDA (8332)
info@universityeda.org

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