Kean University Launches New Center for Economic Development
Nearly two dozen leaders in business, manufacturing, technology and academia gathered this morning for the inaugural partners meeting of the University Center for Business/Workforce Development, Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship at Kean.
The new University Center initiative, funded by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (USEDA), will work to promote innovation and strengthen regional economies in New Jersey.
“Today’s meeting was phenomenal. This is going to be a transformational institution in the State of New Jersey, and to have all of the partners here is exciting,” said Barbara George Johnson, Kean vice president of external affairs and urban policy and research.
The inaugural meeting assembled partners from the Hispanic and African-American Chambers of Commerce, the NJ Manufacturing Extension Program, the Institute for Life Science Entrepreneurship at Kean, and more, to share ideas and lay the groundwork for future initiatives.
Using applied research, technical assistance and academic expertise, the University Center will make small businesses a key focus.
“Small businesses reflect the culture and values of our state. When we lose them, we lose ourselves,” Johnson said.
Kean was recently one of 25 colleges and universities nationwide selected for a more than $1 million, five-year competitive grant to create the center. Housed at the John S. Watson Institute for Urban Policy and Research at Kean, the University Center will address regional needs such as agriculture in South Jersey; manufacturing in Central Jersey; and small businesses in North Jersey.
“Kean is a higher education partner in this. We want to create pathways for people toward earning academic degrees,” said Joseph Youngblood II, Ph.D., Kean senior vice president for external affairs. “
Underpinning the effort will be the use of data analytics and technology. BCT Partners, a Newark-based consulting firm, will use data to create a geospatial tool pinpointing regional needs and solutions.
“We can develop more precise recommendations about what to do for the regional economies,” said Lawrence M. Hibbert, BCT Partners president and managing partner. “What Kean has assembled is the organization and partners that allow us to move forward.”
The College of Business and Public Management (CBPM) at Kean also plays a key role in the University Center, providing expertise in funding, certification and technical assistance to prospective entrepreneurs and businesses.
The College is also developing curriculum to support a new major in innovative and social entrepreneurship. It would train students who want to work in nonprofit entrepreneurial areas, on projects such as providing water sources to developing countries or working to alleviate poverty.
CBPM Dean Jin Wang, Ph.D., said the plans outlined at the meeting offer great opportunities ahead.
“At Kean, we say ‘Cougars Climb Higher.’ I think with the Watson Institute, my college now has wings – now we can fly higher,” he said.