Wednesday, March 14, 2012

University Trio Brief Gaston Economic Developers

[In the photo at right, Barry Burks of the Charlotte Research Institute talks to Gaston County officials about UNC Charlotte’s major research initiatives.]

In support of a University initiative to cultivate support and collaboration in surrounding counties, three UNC Charlotte senior leaders met March 13 with the Gaston County Economic Development Commission.

Betty Doster, special assistant to the chancellor for constituent relations; Paul Wetenhall , president of the Ben Craig Center – the University’s business incubator; and Barry Burks, associate director of the Charlotte Research Institute (CRI) spoke to a gathering of more than 30 civic, business and government leaders involved in driving economic development in Gaston County; the commission executive director, Donny Hicks, is a UNC Charlotte graduate.

Doster provided an update on UNC Charlotte’s growth and the University’s impact in Gaston County. She noted that 942 current UNC Charlotte students hail from Gaston County and that 506 of those students previously attended Gaston College. She said 4,000 UNC Charlotte alumni live in Gaston County and that 464 teachers in Gaston County got their degrees at UNC Charlotte.

Burks described the resources available at the CRI and how it works with businesses to conduct practical research in many areas, including bioinformatics, biomedical engineering, sustainable design and nanoscale science. He described how the William States Lee College of Engineering is recognized as the top advanced manufacturing program in the world. CRI has worked with Gaston County economic developers on various efforts to recruit new businesses to the county.

Wetenhall described the services provided by the Ben Craig Center – named for a Gaston County native. The business incubator helps encourage, stimulate and refine innovation, which Wetenhall said is the most important aspect of driving an economic resurgence. The center encourages inventors and seeks to help draw entrepreneurs and innovators together to create economic value that will lead to jobs.

Today’s meeting grew out of a visit last month by Chancellor Philip L. Dubois, at which he had discussions with Gaston County business and civic leaders. The University is working to enhance relationships throughout the region, combining outreach to alumni, education, government, business and civic leaders.

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