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Michigan assets for economic growth stand among nation's best; Presidents offer full resources to jump-start state economy

The University Research Corridor presidents today (May 31) released a preliminary independent analysis showing that URC's assets for a knowledge economy are comparable to those found in regions of the country known for their economic vitality.

By working to increase business partnerships—and making their resources more visible to the rest of the world—the presidents said they hope to be part of attracting business to Michigan and reinvigorating its economy.

Anderson Economic Group compared the resources of the URC—the six-month-old alliance of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University—with top-ranked peers: North Carolina's Research Triangle, Boston's Route 128 Corridor in Massachusetts and Penn State/Pittsburgh/Carnegie Mellon in Pennsylvania---and found the Michigan assets robust.

“These three research institutions are attracting talent and money to the state, as well as producing the knowledge workers we need for today's economy," said Patrick Anderson, a leading economist and former state budget official whose clients include the nation's largest corporations. "They're already competing with the best institutions nationwide, like those in North Carolina's Research Triangle and Massachusetts.”

Like Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts have seen major industries like textiles, steel and manufacturing go through historic changes and massive job cuts that sharply altered their economies. In each state, the educational and research assets were key to diversifying and transforming the economy, Anderson noted.

The three universities formed the URC to leverage their collective assets, encourage collaboration, and increase business partnerships, with an overarching goal of accelerating statewide economic development.

The study found URC operations total $6.5 billion per year, or 2 percent of the state's economic activity, and directly support 46,938 full-time employees. URC members have 617,951 alumni currently living in Michigan who help create a well-educated work force, and whose salaries total another $24 billion, or 7.1 percent of state domestic product.

The preliminary report is being unveiled at the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference, where Michigan's top business and political leaders gather each year. The complete report will be released this fall.

Among the findings:

--URC spends more than $1.3 billion per year on R&D, comparable to or more than  counterparts in Massachusetts, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. In 2004, URC ranked highest among the four groups. By 2005, however, North Carolina pulled ahead due to its accelerated growth rate.

--URC outranked its Pennsylvania and North Carolina peers in the number of patents granted and licensing revenue, two strong measures of innovation and economic growth, with an average of 126 patents per year compared to 111 in North Carolina and 123 in Pennsylvania. The Massachusetts cluster of Harvard, MIT and Tufts were granted 204 patents.

--Michigan's growth rate for academic R&D is trailing rival regions. Each gets about 60 percent or more of its research funding from the federal government but the Research Triangle gets at least twice as much from state government and industry.

--The URC partners spent a much greater percentage of their own institutional money to support research; institutional spending accounted for 25 percent of research support for the URC, more than any of the other top research universities and exceeding the national average of 18 percent.

--Between 2004 and 2005, URC research grew by 3.7 percent compared to increases of 5.5 percent in Pennsylvania and 11.7 percent for the North Carolina group, largely due to growing assistance from state and local governments, and industry.

--North Carolina is investing significantly more in the fledging life sciences industry (73 percent in the Research Triangle versus 63 percent in Michigan's URC) while Massachusetts and Pennsylvania spend a much smaller percentage.

“Our students, alumni and faculty are the greatest resources Michigan's research universities have to offer, and we must work together to leverage our collective strengths,” said President Mary Sue Coleman. “When business, government and universities pool our assets and collaborate as a team, we turn ideas into action more rapidly, accelerate economic growth, and create the new jobs that will return Michigan to prosperity.”

Coleman was a doctoral candidate in the 1960s when the Carolinas were losing textile jobs, and as the University of North Carolina, Duke University and North Carolina State University began building the Research Triangle. The 48-year-old Triangle is now the nation's largest research park, with 7,000 acres and 44,000 high-paying jobs.

“The numbers clearly show Michigan has what it takes to be an international powerhouse in today's global business environment,” said Wayne State University President Irvin D. Reid.  “Michigan boasts economic breadth and scope, a talented workforce and the unparalleled resources of the URC, which has coalesced for the express purpose of facilitating economic development in our state.  As our presence here at the Mackinac Conference suggests, the URC can play a critical role in connecting business and government with Michigan's top talent.”

The study found the universities accounted for 94 percent of federal academic research dollars brought into Michigan; all three are among the top 75 of more than 600 U.S. research universities.

Over the past five years, they have helped launch more than 79 startup companies based on university research and helped attract a far greater number of companies that want to be near universities. Expansion Management Magazine recently ranked Ann Arbor the No. 1 region in the nation for availability of knowledge workers. The East Lansing/Lansing area was also highly ranked.

“The knowledge economy is here, and competition in the realm of innovations and ideas will be every bit as global and as fierce as it is in manufacturing," said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “Michigan's three internationally recognized research institutions are essential to creating the intellectual capital and the technology breakthroughs that will make our state competitive. Other states and other countries are just as determined to get ahead. We must send the message loud and clear through our investments and policy decisions that Michigan is open for business and serious about success.”

To read the full report, visit: www.urcmich.org/economic.

To learn more about the numerous companies begun with the help of URC partners and their research, visit: www.urcmich.org/numbers/URC_companies.html.

For more about the University Research Corridor, visit: www.urcmich.org.

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