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College of Business and Economics prepares to establish new facility

February 7, 2014

The College of Business and Economics, in collaboration with the chancellor and the city of River Falls, is set to unveil the Center for Innovation and Business Development (CIBD) in early April.

The CIBD was established to meet the needs of the region’s business community, assist economic development, encourage innovation and provide opportunities for current and future MBA students. The facility is located in the city’s former power plant, which closed on July 1, 2011.

Close proximity to the UW-River Falls campus and ample parking makes for an accessible new location for non-community members visiting the CIBD, in addition to students and faculty.

UWRF has offered its resources in the formation of the CIBD, while the city of River Falls is contributing the office space and rent free of charge. The College of Business and Economics intends to provide business feasibility studies, business and marketing plans, strategic management and the analysis and development of international markets.

The CIBD will have two primary functions. Firstly, an Economic Development Specialist will be hired to help place full-time MBA students with the region’s businesses.

The students will be asked to assist with periodic projects, thus creating rare opportunities, as well as internships and potential future employment.

The Economic Development Specialist would also assist with regional Economic Development Corporations. Ideally, the specialist would help retain and grow business in the city of River Falls, as well as attract new business.

Once an Economic Development Specialist is hired, they will be required to become acquainted with the members of the business community, starting with the residents of River Falls and students in the MBA program. Currently, the CIBD is being remodeled because the facility has not been renovated in over 30 years.

“It’s a nice space, but it needs some updating,” said Glenn Potts, dean of the College of Business and Economics. The building’s restoration will include new walls, ceiling tiles, carpeting and paint.

The second function of the CIBD will be the relocation of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), currently located at 128 South Hall.

The SBDC provides information, advising and training to western Wisconsin entrepreneurs and small business owners. But, the SBDC happens to be problematically located for those unfamiliar with the UWRF campus. “From outside the community it is hard to find,” Potts said.

Presently, not only do outsiders need to find the campus, but they must locate free parking, the correct building and the right room. “It can be intimidating,” Potts said.

Potts fully expects the CIBD to create new jobs within the region, including MBA students who gain experience at the facility. When the facility is finally primped and polished it is also likely to attract future potential MBA students to gravitate towards the university.

In two years, the CIBD could become home to a brand new Food Product Development and Business Incubator, which would collaborate with the stout Wisconsin food processing industry. The incubator would help expand product lines and develop new products.

The original idea for the CIBD is still relatively fresh.

“The Chancellor and I have been talking about this for six to nine months, going back to last spring,” Potts said.

In fact, Potts has been on the planning committee since day one. He has also helped lead an effort for a federal grant for the future incubator. Potts is enthusiastic about his students finding work at the CIDB.

“These are young, talented people with a significant amount of training and expertise,” Potts said.

One of the university’s slogans is “Global. Innovative. Excellent.” With the unveiling of the CIBD, the College of Business and Economics appears to be doing their part on behalf of the university.