The University’s Center for Regional Development (CRD) is looking to expand its collaborative efforts well beyond BGSU and even the northwest Ohio region.
Dr. Michael Carroll, the center’s new director, would like to create a global network of university-based centers with missions similar to the CRD, whose focus is on enhancing community and regional economic development in a 27-county area.
Carroll, economics, foresees network members conducting research with real-time, peer review, using a Web-based communications suite that includes video, audio and messaging. Researchers worldwide could immediately look at any issue posed, he said, predicting that such “active research” could change academic inquiry and, with it, the way problems are solved.
It’s not a done deal yet, but with verbal commitments received from universities in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, the network may begin with cross listings on members’ Web sites, he said.
It would be a logical extension of the work of the center, which changed its name in January, from the Center for Policy Analysis and Public Service, to more accurately reflect what it has always done—community and regional development, said Assistant Director Robin Weirauch.
In this case, she said, “regional development” means development of, as much as within, regions. The center encourages local leaders to think about collaborations outside their political subdivisions, and even county boundaries, for the sake of economic development, she explained.
One way to get local entities thinking regionally is the concept of clusters, defined as geographic concentrations of interconnected companies and institutions in a particular field. The idea is cooperation, seeking complementary businesses that will aid development in a larger area and “not just looking after your own backyard,” Weirauch said. Cluster-based development “can transcend all of that” for long-lasting economic well-being, she added.
Along with Neil Reid of the University of Toledo, Carroll is directing a cluster project, now in its third year, aimed at bolstering the greenhouse industry in a five-county area of northwest Ohio. The project advisory board includes greenhouse and farm market owners, as well as representatives of the Regional Growth Partnership, the Ohio Floriculture Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. An Ohio State University extension agent and an OSU faculty member in horticulture and crop science are also among the board members.
“We’re replicating the greenhouse cluster in other areas,” including the automotive, plastics and glass industries, Carroll noted. “We have a lot more external collaboration now.”
Working with economic development practitioners such as the Regional Growth Partnership, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and a variety of city and county officials, the Carroll/Reid cluster strategy now underpins the region’s overall economic development efforts.
Carroll, who holds a Ph.D. from Colorado State University, is a former operations manager at one Dayton-based firm and corporate controller at another. Affiliated with the CRD since coming to Bowling Green in 2001, he became its director last month, replacing Dr. Beth Walter Honadle, who is now director of the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati.
Following her departure last year, a committee with campus and external representation reviewed the center’s operations and recommended renewed emphasis on its research function, particularly from an interdisciplinary standpoint.
A member of the Ohio Rural Universities Program that began in 1985, the center had been part of the political science department until 1999, when it became an independent unit, offering “a natural transition” to an interdisciplinary approach, Weirauch noted.
Under the Graduate College’s purview since then, the center has worked with many BGSU departments, including, on the greenhouse project, faculty members from the economics, geography and management departments, Carroll said.
The CRD is currently partnering with other areas on campus as well. In collaboration with the School of Art, the College of Musical Arts and the Department of Theatre and Film, a study of the arts’ economic impact in northwest Ohio is under way. It is under consideration as the focus of the center’s annual State of the Region conference next April. Other projects are teaming the CRD with the Canadian studies program to study Canadian businesses in northwest Ohio, and with the history department’s policy history program to look at providing institutional memory in the Ohio General Assembly in an era of term limits.
Carroll has successfully participated in such “interdisciplinary and inter-collegiate collaborations” and generated external funding for them, according to Dr. Heinz Bulmahn, vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate College.
Calling the new director “a role model” for President Sidney Ribeau’s Scholarship of Engagement initiative, Bulmahn added that Carroll has been involved in regional economic development issues and “has a clear vision of developing the center in order to achieve its outreach and research mission.”