Universities and Economic Revitalization

In today’s Pope Center piece, Jane Shaw writes about a conference she attended in northwestern North Carolina. The theme of the conference was the role that universities can play in the economic revitalization of a region that has fallen on rather hard times. All of the participants gave thumbs up to the notion that universities can play a role, but I remain unconvinced. Economic growth (including revitalization) depends first and foremost on entrepreneurship — people with business acumen spotting what appear to be opportunities for profitable use of resources. Universities don’t supply that. If entrepreneurs do see opportunities, they may need information and various consulting services to be able to take advantage of them. Some university personnel may be able to supply those things, but there is a large national market for information. Why suppose that universities in the area should necessarily be better at satisfying the informational needs of business than private firms or university professors located elsewhere?

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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