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University aims to fuel economy

Higher-education institutions, development officials partner, launch statewide business enticement efforts

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership has signed an agreement with Virginia’s public higher-education institutions and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to draw businesses to the commonwealth, Gov. Bob McDonnell announced this week.

The partnership aims to attract investment by promoting Virginia’s public universities and marketing the commonwealth as a good place for firms to invest.

The agreement is intended to forge “a more explicit connection between higher education and economic development and hopefully result in job creation,” McDonnell spokesperson Paul Logan said.

Highlighting the strengths of the state’s public universities to businesses entering the commonwealth will benefit students and recent graduates, said Alan Edwards, director of policy studies for the State Council of Higher Education.

“Many corporations consider these factors like ‘what are the resources that they can tap into?’” Edwards said. Research done at universities, and students graduating with job skills, provide intellectual capital businesses could find useful.

“Ideally [the partnership] will benefit [students] when they graduate, and there will be more and better opportunities in the commonwealth,” Edwards said. Virginia is the first state attempting this type of alliance between higher education and economic development, he said.

Some of the initiatives the agreement proposes — which include joint outreach efforts and meetings between education and economic development officials — are already in place, said Pace Lochte, the University’s director of regional business development, in an email.

“The document formalizes some of the ways in which higher education interacts with [the Virginia Economic Development Partnership] and [State Council of Higher Education],” Lochte said.

The agreement will not cost the University anything to implement, but it may stand to gain research funding from the partnership, which could be key in light of declining funds from federal sources such as the National Science Foundation, Lochte said.

The council is planning meetings starting next week to move collaborative efforts forward. The agreement calls for semi-annual strategic meetings between the partnership and the council.

University President Teresa Sullivan, Lochte and other University leaders will represent the University during such meetings.

The memorandum will be in force from May 1, 2012 to June 30, 2014.