UW Tacoma's Institute of Technology as an economic magnet

Recruitment and retention are discussed at the Tacoma Technology Consortium.

In 2000, when the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, the Economic Development Board and community leaders commissioned a study that assessed Tacoma’s competitiveness with other metro areas, the University of Washington Tacoma’s Institute of Technology did not even exist.

Times have definitely changed, as leaders in the local technology industry gathered Wednesday inside the Simpson Room at the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber’s downtown office in the Rust Building at 950 Pacific Ave. for the Tacoma Technology Consortium. The topic of discussion was a strategy for leveraging the UW Tacoma’s Institute of Technology in order to recruit and retain technology firms in Tacoma-Pierce County.

A report released last month by DCG Corplan Consulting LLC of West Orange, N.J. outlining a strategy to best use this vital educational asset provided the background for the discussion. The report was based on a survey of 16 Tacoma employers.

Among the recommendations were the following:

– IT should study innovative programs being pursued by some competing institutions, such as Bellevue Community College. That school is participating in a business incubator-like program with local companies, said Bruce Kendall, president of the Economic Development Board.

– UW Tacoma should gain control of the remaining acreage necessary to complete the 2003 Master Plan.

– The UW School of Global Trade, Transportation and Logistics Studies should be transferred from the school’s main campus in Seattle to the UW Tacoma and expanded to an undergraduate program. Kendall cited the growing importance of the Port of Tacoma to the regional economy.

– IT should conduct workshops with local industry members promoting new technology. Suggestions include Sagem Morpho, Vadium Technologies, BIS and Ascentry Technologies.

“I get excited reading reports like this,” said Andrew Fry, IT director, noting such a report brings up topics that need to be discussed prior to implementation, such as how the area is perceived nationally and internationally and what can be done to improve that image.

“We’ve been seen as a place where new businesses can develop,” said Paul Ellis, director for Metropolitan Development for the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber.

The University of Washington and Pacific Lutheran University each received “very competitive” rankings from Barron’s 2003 Profiles of American Colleges, both in general admissions and computing and software systems programs. The University of Puget Sound was ranked “most competitive” in both categories. Since the UW Tacoma is so new, there are no detailed reviews as of yet.

“We’ve got to address that,” Kendall said, noting many people not in the area market see this list first.

Primary businesses – those that provide a service or a product – should be expanded, Kendall said, as opposed to retail businesses, which circulate money.

“That’s how you grow an economy,” he said. “We are always looking for the next great expansion.”

The UW Tacoma Institute of Technology began operations in 2001.

The Tacoma Technology Consortium, an affiliate of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, was formed to promote and enhance the area’s technology infrastructure and develop strategic partnerships with the local technology community.

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