Vice President Dan Reed presented at the annual banquet of the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce on January 23, 2014.
UI to staff 'engagement centers' across the state
Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 23, 2014
The University of Iowa is working to build the first of what it hopes will be a series of “engagement centers” across the state staffed with people trained to work with communities and businesses to help them be successful.
“The university is going to step up its game,” said Daniel A. Reed, UI’s vice president for research and economic development. “We will hire people whose only job is to help people be successful — and not just university-based businesses.”
Reed made the announcement Thursday night during the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. About 400 people were on hand to hear Reed share his insight into how public universities can help boost economic development and how UI plans to make a difference in the state of Iowa.
Reed said the engagement centers would provide business advice, business education, entrepreneurial training, technical training, IT-based training and skills training to meet the exact skills shortage in the area.
“We are positioned to be successful, but to do so we have to work together and believe in what is possible,” he said.
Reed also emphasized the importance of providing everyone a chance to succeed, no matter their socioeconomic status, sharing with listeners that he grew up poor in a small town in Arkansas.
“My grandfather finished the third grade, my father finished the fifth,” he said. “To say my family was poor would have been an understatement.”
Reed said one of the reasons he believes so strongly in education is because it provides a path out of poverty and can give a single generation a chance to jump multiple socioeconomic classes. He reminded listeners that this month marks the 50th anniversary of former President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.
“One of the things Johnson said was the importance of giving everyone a chance, not a guarantee, but a chance for a better life,” he said.
Reed said he has spent the past year traveling across the state, talking with people about what the university can do to help boost economic development. One thing was clear: a need to refresh skills to meet the rapidly changing economy.
“We have jobs we can’t fill because we can’t find qualified people to fill them, and we have people leaving the state to take other jobs,” he said.
Reed said the university can help by using its research ideas to help fuel economic development. But how do you transfer those ideas from the university to companies that then hire people?
“You let people start new companies,” Reed said. “You license that technology to exist in companies and you partner with existing companies to help them be successful.”
One listener asked, “What is the biggest obstacle to success in the Corridor?”
“I think it is us,” Reed said. “It’s not a lack of resources or talent.”
Reed said one of the reasons he returned to academia is because he sees the opportunity for a new compact with public universities.
“Public universities are changing,” he said. “Their job is to serve us — addressing our economic needs and educational needs.”
Finally, Reed said the most important capital resource is people and that talent is not measured by a person’s economic status.
“Talented and smart people come from everywhere — someone who is poor is just as likely to be talented and smart as the son or daughter of the wealthy, if we give them the opportunity,” he said. “We have to give a larger fraction of our community the skills they need to be competitive.”