Colorado State University, Northern Colorado Economic Development Corp. Sign Memorandum of Understanding, Hire Regional Economist

The Northern Colorado Economic Development Corp. has committed $750,000 over five years to a partnership with Colorado State University to hire a new regional economist and collaborate on economic development-oriented programs, encouraging technology transfer and regional corporate investment.

The two organizations have hired Martin Shields as regional economist. Shields, director of Pennsylvania State University’s Center for Economic and Community Development since 1998, begins his duties in August. He will be based in the economics department of the College of Liberal Arts and also will report to the university’s new Office of Economic Development on his outreach activities.

Shields has served as associate professor of agricultural and regional economics at Penn State and acting director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. Early in his career, he worked as an economist for the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, his master’s from Penn State and his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin.

As part of the Memorandum of Understanding, the Northern Colorado Economic Development Corp. has agreed to spend $150,000 to supplement salary and fund sponsored research each of the next five years as Colorado State ramps up its newly created Office of Economic Development.

"Martin is a great hire for Colorado State University, the NCEDC and the state of Colorado. Colorado State plays a critical role in contributing to our region’s economic development and we are delighted to help create this new partnership," said J.J. Johnston, president and chief executive officer of the Northern Colorado Economic Development Corp. "Together, we can collaborate to identify the types of industries we want to attract to the region so we can help grow – and sustain – a world-class economy."

The Northern Colorado Economic Development Corp. is charged with leveraging public and private funds to strengthen existing employers, support expansion projects, provide critical research for decision-making and recruit new employers who create primary jobs and invest capital.

The organization lists funding for higher education, including strengthening Colorado State’s brand, among its Leadership 2010 Council goals. Its Higher Education Partnership Committee exists to help propel Colorado State into top position with the leading research and teaching universities in the United States and the world. Eric Holsapple, owner of Loveland Commercial LLC, serves as chairman of the committee, which also includes Tony Frank, provost and senior vice president at Colorado State, and Ajay Menon, dean of the College of Business.

Colorado State already contributes to the state’s economic development by preparing workers for the labor force and providing venues that enhance quality of life in the state. But the university aims to strengthen ties with such organizations as the Northern Colorado Economic Development Corp., the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce and the city of Fort Collins.

"Partnerships between Colorado State and the economic development community are critical to a strong economy," Frank said. "We can help provide the technology that will help position our area of the state as a leader in innovation and partnerships to maintain a healthy job base."

The two organizations have already collaborated to bring business people, economic development leaders and government officials together to concentrate on several areas where research and industry in Northern Colorado are already strong and growing. Those areas include bioscience and clean energy.

"This agreement with the NCEDC is important in our efforts to expedite technology transfer opportunities and better serve our innovation community within Northern Colorado," said Hunt Lambert, associate vice president for economic development. "Our goal is to help connect industry with university programs and research to deliver required talent and technology to them. To do this efficiently, we will continue to work with partners like NCEDC to understand and deliver to the community’s needs."

In May, the NCEDC and Colorado State and other area economic development leaders announced the creation of the Northern Colorado Clean Energy Cluster, a clearinghouse that connects entrepreneurs, industry powerhouses such as Woodward Governor and major power users with researchers and government officials, encouraging innovation, new job creation and investment in the region.