Anyone that’s ever heard me speak knows that one of the big reasons I wanted the Kent city manager job so bad was because Kent was home to Kent State University. I had spent time in university cities and I knew that was where I belonged. Well, I’m home now in Kent, but to be honest after 18 months I’ve been somewhat surprised by the lack of appreciation for how much we have here in Kent because of the university. Now I get that when you double your population, you’re going to have some rough spots, but after working in cities where they were spending millions of dollars to find some way to have a university presence in town, I have enormous appreciation for Kent State. Have you ever tried to get a university to move? Good luck. And yet that’s exactly what cities are fighting for all over the country. Thankfully, that’s one race we’ve already won.
I sure don’t pretend to know all there is to know about universities, but one thing is clear, once they find a location they tend to stay put. And that’s been good news for Kent because while our manufacturing base has slowly left town, Kent State has remained a sure and steady source of economic growth.
Cities all over the country have seen that economic horsepower of universities and they want a piece of it too. One of the more infamous big moves was in the mid-1940’s when Wake Forest University uprooted itself from it’s small rural town and plopped down 115 miles away in Winston Salem (at no small expense to the citizens of Winston Salem).
In city circles that was considered the ultimate economic coup. The fox went into the henhouse and moved all the chickens to a new urban home. As infamous as that incident was, it is rare — which means cities that don’t have universities are left fighting for a few scraps of universities anywhere they can get it.
After the dawn of the internet, those cities that had been left out of the university economic buffet, all of a sudden had a chance to order out. The internet ushered in all sorts of creative ways to be considered a university city, and cities have been lining up with their pocket books ever since trying to buy a piece of that pie.
The combination of distance learning and anxious cities has led to the creation of new Higher Education Centers. To try to reap the economic gain of universities, cities have gone out purchased/built/renovated buildings and land, christening them Higher Ed Centers. And it’s working.
Here’s a few examples:
Southern Maryland Higher Education Center (SMHEC Link)
|University of Maryland College Park|
|Johns Hopkins University – Engineering|
|College of Notre Dame of Maryland|
|University of Maryland University College|
|Catholic University of America|
|Old Dominion University|
|Johns Hopkins University – Counseling & Spec. Educ|
|George Washington University|
|John Hopkins University – Undergraduate|
|Johns Hopkins University Business|
|Coppin State University|
|Trinity (Washington) University|
Roanoke Higher Education Center Link
To make this project happen, the state contributed $9 million and the City of Roanoke $2.5 million.
Six public and eight private colleges and universities partnering in this Center include: Averett University, Bluefield College, Jefferson College of Health Sciences, Ferrum College, Hampton University, Hollins University, Mary Baldwin College, Old Dominion University, Radford University, Roanoke College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Virginia Western Community College. In addition, This Valley Works offers job-training programs as a partner in the Center. The Center is also home to the Blue Ridge Technical Academy operated by the Roanoke City Public Schools, the New Century Technology Council, and the Western Virginia Workforce Development Board.
I offer these examples only to share a bit of an “outsider turned insider” perspective of what universities mean to local economies. Sure, they consume city services, but at about half the rate that they contribute to city revenues — and that’s a ratio that works to Kent’s favor, and it’s one that cities envy us for.
Part of what prompted me to share these thoughts was seeing an announcement from my last city of an upcoming 3 hour Council meeting where they’ll be presenting plans to create a Higher Ed Center in Kingsport (see below). I know how hard they’ve worked to get this for and it made me thankful that is one race we’ve already run and won.
From: KINGSPORT, TENNESSEE
Please tune-in to Charter Cable Channel 16 to learn about the proposed Kingsport Higher Education Center .
The 3-hour BMA meeting (recorded Thursday 3/15) will be cycled regularly from now until Tuesday night’s regular BMA meeting.
The BMA will again discuss the proposed Higher Education Center on Monday, March 19 ( 6:30 pm , City Hall) and Tuesday, March 20 ( 7:00 pm , City Hall).
Order of televised program (in case you pick-up in mid-program):
- Dennis Phillips, Mayor, Introduction of Committee Chairs
- John Campbell, City Manager, explanation of BMA’s expected action item
- Jeanette Blazier, former Mayor, historical background; RCAT & Educate and Grow; community solution
- Keith Wilson, summary of work to date
- Etta Clark, Talent Management, Eastman Chemical Company
- Larry Nunley, AccuForce Staffing Services
- Roy Harmon, Bank of Tennessee
- Richard Venable, NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership
- Dr. David Milhorn, Executive Vice President for Research, University of Tennessee
- David Gregory, Vice Chancellor for Administration and Facilities Management, Tennessee Board of Regents
- Dr. Dolphus Henry, President, Tusculum College
- Dr. Greg Jordan, President, King College
- Dr. John O’Dell, Lincoln Memorial University
Public/Private Financing Options
- Larry Munsey, Vice Mayor (Finance Committee Considerations)
Operating Funding, Management & Lease
- Dr. Bill Locke, President, Northeast State
Conclusion & BMA Questions