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Panel links higher education and business to spur economic growth

Ashley Hirtzel
The WNY Regional Summit on Higher Education and Enonomic Development

Several SUNY leaders and business experts participated in the WNY Regional Summit on Higher Education and Economic Development in Buffalo onFriday.

The aim of the event was to discuss how education plays a key role in economic development and job creation. The seven panelists talked about the importance of continuing to invest in research, innovation, and job training programs in order to boost the quality of life and economic viability of the region.

Panelist and President and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership Dottie Gallagher-Cohen says one way academia can increase economic impact is to shift more of their spending to local businesses.

“We’ve actually started a challenge and asked local businesses to just do 1% more of their spending additionally to what they’ve done previously to spend that money locally and that would be a $700 million impact over night, which puts people to work,” said Gallagher-Cohen.

Panelist and Erie Community College President Jack Quinn says it’s also important for colleges and universities to respond quicker to the need for a trained and skilled workforce. He pointed to programs at ECC that train students to work in the manufacturing sector.

University at Buffalo President Satish Tripathi says it’s important to promote internships and invest in entrepreneurial education.  

“We’re taught that entrepreneurship has to be done very early in undergraduate education. We started an entrepreneurship academy where students are competing with business plans. They are listening from the entrepreneurs themselves in speaking engagements, so they are really getting the sense of what it takes to begin some kind of entrepreneurship industry,” said Tripathi.

Panelist and President of Alfred University Charles Edmonson added that it is important to foster hands-on education and to teach students on how to turn research into business opportunities.

According to a report entitled “How SUNY Matters” by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the economic impact of all western New York colleges and universities is $4.6 billion annually.

Deputy Director for Research at the Rockefeller Institute of Government Jason Lane says success is driven by strong higher education system. He says it’s important to recruit people who live out of state to come here, because it’s more likely that they will stay and prosper here.

WNY REDC co-chair Howard Zemsky says important that institutions continue to work together to spur growth and focus on their strengths.

Panelists included:

  • Howard Cohen, PhD, Interim President, SUNY Buffalo State
  • Charles Edmondson, PhD, President, Alfred University
  • Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, President and CEO, Buffalo Niagara Partnership
  • Virginia Schaefer Horvath, PhD, President, SUNY Fredonia
  • Jack Quinn, President, Erie Community College
  • Satish K. Tripathi, PhD, President, University at Buffalo
  • Howard Zemsky, Co-chair, Western New York Regional Economic Development Council
WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.