June 25, 2015

SIU’s economic development efforts earn national recognition

by Pete Rosenbery

APLUCARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale earned national recognition for its economic development work in the region. 

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) designated SIU an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University. SIU is one of 18 colleges and universities to earn the designation this year, and one of only 48 nationwide to have the distinction, which is valid for 10 years. 

The Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities program recognizes institutions who work with public and private sector partners “to support economic development through a variety of activities including innovation and entrepreneurship, technology transfer, talent and workforce development, and community development,” according to the organization. 

SIU System President Randy Dunn said the recognition shows the impact of SIU’s interwoven relationship with economic and community development in central and Southern Illinois. 

“We are pleased to be recognized for our role in helping foster economic development growth throughout the region and are committed to continuing those efforts,” Dunn said.  “SIU an important economic partner with local communities throughout the region.” 

Each of the 18 nominees began with an institutional self-study and solicited input from external stakeholders, and included identifying areas for growth and improvement for their economic engagement enterprise, according to the organization. 

“Public universities serve as economic engines for their local communities and states by conducting cutting edge research to reach new breakthroughs and developing the talent to help existing businesses grow stronger and enabling new ones to develop and thrive,” APLU President Peter McPherson said. “The 18 institutions in 2015 class of Innovation & Economic Prosperity Universities serve as wonderful models of how public research universities extend beyond their campuses to engage their communities in economic development that create jobs and improve lives.” 

James S. Allen, associate provost for academic programs, led the 20-member steering committee that collaborated on the application over an 18-month period. He credits members Kyle L. Harfst, executive director of the university’s Office of Economic and Regional Development and director of the SIU Research Park; Lynn Anderson Lindberg, director of Business Innovation and Research and SIU Research Park associate director; and Craig Anz, professor of architectural studies and associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, for their work in fine-tuning the application. 

Earlier this year, SIU earned the 2015 Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The APLU award is an “important complement” to that designation, Allen said. 

The university’s goals are to “strategically and collaboratively advance the economic well-being and quality of life” in a distinctive region of the state, Allen said. 

APLU recognizes “our special role in Southern Illinois with its profound economic problems where unemployment and outsourcing have been devastating to the local economy,” he said, adding in that community service, including economic development, health and social services and outreach efforts are key components in the university’s mission. 

In 2014, the Office of Economic and Regional Development (OERD) assisted 57 businesses in Southern Illinois start or expand their companies, worked and 529 clients, and provided more than 3,500 business consulting hours. The Small Business Development Center assisted in packaging more than $7.8 million in financing to these clients. 

In addition:

  • OERD connected 10 faculty researchers and scientists for collaborative research and business opportunities.
  • In 30 years of entrepreneurship to the region, the Small Business Development Center by 2014 provided business consulting and training services to more than 6,500 unique clients.
  • Small Business Incubator programs within OERD have served 115 start-up companies and emerging research activities since its inception in 1990.
  • In fiscal year 2014, SIU generated $61.7 million in research grants with 63 total patents awarded. 

The study notes the university’s impact on the central and Southern Illinois economy. It includes: 

  • SIU activities contributed approximately $1.4 billion, 17,707 direct and indirect jobs, and $837.8 million in personal income to a 32-county region that comprises SIU Carbondale and the School of Medicine in Springfield.
  • Every $1 in state appropriations generates roughly $4.65 worth of economic activity in Southern and central Illinois. 

“The state’s investment in the university is leading to an even bigger investment in the region,” Allen said.