University Tours Expand Clay County Campus Strategy
Two Clay County teams recently visited the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla to gather ideas for a Northland satellite to provide new educational offerings and help spur job growth.
Representatives of the Clay County Economic Development Council and the iWerx co-working center in North Kansas City recently toured the university’s flagship engineering and science campus. The groups gathered ideas on what subjects might be taught at the Gladstone Innovation Campus to serve Clay County and the Northland.
Former EDC President Tony Reinhart said the effort grew from the organization’s 2014 Strategic Initiative, which targeted ways to expand job growth and quality of life. Details are still being discussed, but the university effort would create a distance-learning program to make advanced degree programs available in the Northland.
“We see a lot of opportunities by bringing that expertise to our local companies,” Reinhart explained. “What this could do for our businesses is tremendous. Our hope is that we can work out the technical and financial details to make this a reality in the near term.”
EDC Executive Director Jim Hampton said advanced learning in these fields is not readily available to residents and businesses of Western Missouri. Greater Kansas City is home to a large number of companies involved in engineering and related fields. Thousands of their employees would have ready access to advanced education and training if available here. Others could draw on the research and expertise to grow and expand local businesses. A similar satellite operates in St. Louis.
“There are so many opportunities, not only for the young people, but for the working professionals who are looking for doctorates,” Hampton said. “This would also keep our companies on the leading edge of technology and help our businesses compete nationally and internationally.”
Gladstone City Manager Scott Wingerson saw potential for “distance research” as well as distance learning. “It absolutely would help our science, technology and engineering people,” he said, noting advanced work in everything from Mars rovers to telecommunications. “The university is doing tremendous research that we could share with people here.”
The EDC visit Sept. 26 included tours of the university’s distance learning center and meetings with the university chancellor and provost. Several department heads, educators in advanced manufacturing and other fields conducted tours for the Northland groups. Meetings also featured sessions with students in areas such as solar energy applications, including the university’s award-winning solar vehicle development.
Dave Palmstein, managing director of the Northland Angel Investor Network, led another group to Rolla from the North Kansas City’s iWerx business development center Sept. 22. He noted the university’s strengths would be a major benefit for this area. “They’re a very strong player in the distance education arena,” he said. “Their programs are very interactive they’re not presenting information in a lecture format. Although there are professors teaching class, they have full interactive capabilities. It’s very exciting.”
Palmstein also valued the university’s strong engineering programs and cited other areas that could be valuable here as well. “They’re doing a lot of work in 3D printing with various metals,” he said. “They’re doing a lot of modeling for complex systems, including architecture, communications and cyber security. There’s a need for that here.”