A new partnership is evolving between the business community and Weber State University, aimed at enhancing the economic base of the counties around it.
WSU President Paul Thompson said the school is forming a community and economic partnership center at the university as the initial step of expanding WSU's involvement in the cities and counties it serves.Director of the center is Ann Millner, assistant vice-president for community and economic partnership at WSU.
"If you need anything, if you need to know where to go or who to get in contact with, call Ann," Thompson told a group of 100 business and political leaders Wednesday at the Davis County annual business appreciation lunch, held as part the state's Economic Development Week.
Faculty and staff members at WSU are making their technical knowledge and expertise available to the community to help businessmen as they encounter problems, Thompson said.
The university is also sponsoring workshops and seminars encouraging entreprenuers and small business owners.
Technical help can range from helping a business interact with environmental regulatory agencies to equipment selection, Thompson said. The university's chemical and aerospace technology centers are also designed to work with business leaders.
WSU wants to become involved in its adjacent supporting communities, Thompson said, because most of its 13,500-member student body comes from those communities and its graduates go to work there.
Strengthening the economic base of its surrounding communities is the first step for WSU, the president said, adding that other methods of involvement will come later.
According to Thompson, there are four guiding principles in the community involvement:
- The university needs to listen. "Professors - and I still think of myself as a professor - are good at putting together 50-minute presentations. They think of the world in 50-minute time blocks.
"They're not so good at listening, though. We need to get better at that," said Thompson, who has been attending chamber of commerce, civic club, and other functions since taking office.
- The relationship should be a partnership. "We want people comfortable in working with us. We can learn from you. We don't want to go into a situation and, because we're the university, dictate to you," he said.
- Resources need to be focused on short-term goals. "We want to put our resources first into the short-term, and we've chosen strengthening the economic base of the communities around it first," said Thompson.
"We are looking to expand into other areas, such as environmental and education issues, eventually."
- WSU should be a training center. "The university is a resource for advanced training. We have a good continuing education program," said Thompson.