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Greater Binghamton coalition looks to BU research to help catalyze regional resurgence

Intellectual capital created by research active and entrepreneurial faculty provides Greater Binghamton a valuable resource that can help to spawn new businesses, spark job development and assure economic growth in the region, members of the Greater Binghamton coalition agree.

More than 100 business and civic leaders came to campus recently to learn the roles Binghamton University may play in the implementation of the Greater Binghamton plan to address economic and development issues faced by the community.

Speaking to the group, which was gathered for a critical issues forum, sponsored by the Harpur Forum, President Lois B. DeFleur spoke of the intellectual capital the University brings to the fore and BU’s long tradition of industrial partnerships with local firms. “We are the nexus for intellectual capital and we can provide the greatest return on development investments,” she said. “We certainly are committed to being an even more active partner in the future.”

The University is already a leader in research for emerging technologies said DeFleur. “In the long term, our Innovative Technologies Complex really is a key. We’re devoted to incubating new businesses and ideas.”

The critical issues form, featured a combination of University and community leaders who will guide the effort over the coming year. Participating in the panel discussion in the UU-Mandela Room were: Terrance Kane, deputy county executive; Alex DePersis, president of the Broome Chamber; President Lois B. DeFleur; Frances Carr, vice president for research; Charles R. Westgate, dean of the Watson School; Upinder Dhillon, dean of the School of Management; Diana Bendz, senior location executive for IBM; and Marc Newman of Newman Development Group.

Kane gave an overview of the broad-based plan for economic development and the areas of focus, noting that the region formerly took a fractured approach to economic development. “With this plan, we have the support of every regional economic development agency,” he said.

“This regional approach is the most significant step in moving forward. It’s not government or bureaucrats. We’re all moving together with one voice.” DePersis said the community’s strengths were reviewed in creating a plan, which was done with the help of consultants, Angelou Economics of Austin, Texas. The plan identified many strengths. “We focused on the issue of value. What can we bring to employers and what can they bring to us?” he said. Carr told the forum that it’s important to address the entrepreneurial support for research activities that is already occurring at Binghamton. “We’ve had 29 new faculty inventions, eight patents, two companies incubated and three more in the pipeline,” she said.

With nearly one-quarter of its 6,400 alumni in the region, Westgate cited the Watson School as a strong collaborator with start-up companies. “The Watson program is now larger than the Syracuse University engineering program,” he said. “We’re home to research programs that matter.” He cited the Integrated Electronics Engineering Center (IEEC) and the Strategic Partnership for Industrial Resurgence (SPIR) as examples of that collaboration.

An entrepreneurial spirit lends itself to success and can be a key element for implementation of the plan, said Dhillon. “How to take innovation to the market is the cornerstone of our program to assist in the development of new ventures,” he said. “We have a three-course sequence in new product marketing, new venture finance and business plan development. Applicants must present a proposal to be accepted into the program.”

Bendz reminded the audience that the region has a strong history of entrepreneurial spirit and success with Endicott Johnson, Link and IBM. “What if the technology business community joined together as one team interacting with the University?” she asked. “That’s the idea behind development of the Southern Tier Opportunity Coalition. “We’re establishing an ecology of enterprise.”

Newman told the group, “This isn’t just some cheerleading pitch. We have a lot of good things going for us and we have to create opportunities to take advantage of them.”

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