UW Selected as EDA University Center Economic Development Technical Assistance Program

The University of Wyoming has been selected by the U.S. Economic Development Administration
(EDA) to receive funding to establish an EDA University Center (UC) Economic Development
Technical Assistance Program.

UW will receive $1 million — $200,000 over each of the next five years — to establish
and operate an EDA-designated UC, dubbed Wyoming Business Resource Connections (WBRC).

In all, EDA is providing a total of $16.5 million in grants to 23 colleges and universities
in 14 states to administer programs to leverage their assets, promote innovation and
strengthen regional economies.

“The EDA UC designation will broaden the reach of and access to both university assets
and other regional and statewide inclusive entrepreneurial, startup and small-business
resources and services in Wyoming,” says Parag Chitnis, vice president for UW’s Research
and Economic Development Division. “As the University Center, UW’s Research and Economic
Development Division will be the hub of this expansion of access to resources, focusing
on advancing high-growth entrepreneurship and cultivating innovation.”

The WBRC focus on advancing high-growth entrepreneurship and cultivating innovation
will generate innovation in both traditional and emerging economic sectors for Wyoming.

For example, business generation in energy remains central to Wyoming’s economy, with
activity in traditional extraction and new carbon, nuclear and rare earth technologies
and markets, Chitnis says.

“The UC will support core businesses in those industries, primarily through support
of Wyoming startups and small businesses in innovative and ancillary services and
approaches in those industries,” explains Curtis Biggs, executive director of industry
and strategic partnerships for UW’s Research and Economic Development Division. “This
center focus applies to other instrumental sectors of our state as well, including
agriculture, digital technology, travel/tourism and the creative economy, for example.
Ultimately, the enhanced connectivity of the entrepreneurial and small-business services
should lead to increases in total clients served; clients served by multiple partners;
new startups and jobs in high-growth areas; and state economic growth and diversification.” 

Partners within UW will include the College of Business’ Center for Business and Economic
Analysis, the High Plains American Indian Research Institute, Manufacturing Works,
UW Extension and the Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network. These entities
will bolster internal and external referral services and systems, assuring entrepreneurs
and businesses are accessing best-fit programming.

Concurrently, key partner organizations and programs around the state will be an integral
part of the formalized center and referral network. These include the Wyoming Business
Council, Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, Wyoming Innovation Partnership
and the Wyoming Library to Business program.

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., also has shown strong support for this UC effort.

“Our state continues to be at the forefront of groundbreaking innovation, and the
University of Wyoming continues to play an active role in maintaining our leadership
in this space,” Lummis says. “This investment ensures businesses across the Cowboy State will have access to the
resources and opportunities they need to grow and be successful.”

Through the enhanced connectivity of business resources across the state and an increase
in opportunities for businesses and communities to grow, the UC directly impacts core
UW strategic plan areas of engaging with and serving the state of Wyoming and cultivating
financial stability and diversification, Biggs says.

“All campus units can benefit and be involved,” Biggs says. “Whether it is student
internship placement, tech transfer opportunities or connecting with industry in sponsored
research, there are a variety of ways to engage.”

“As part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the Biden-Harris administration
is committed to growing the nation’s economy through research and innovation,” Secretary
of Commerce Gina Raimondo says. “With support from the Biden-Harris administration,
these institutions of higher education will help to develop resilient innovation ecosystems
and equitably expand economic opportunity for communities across the country.”

EDA prioritizes economic development planning or implementation projects that advance
equity across America through investments that directly benefit traditionally underserved

“The Economic Development Administration is dedicated to boosting regional economies
through place-based, locally led strategies,” says Alejandra Castillo, assistant secretary
of commerce for economic development. “EDA is pleased to support the institutions
designated or redesignated as University Centers as they help us invest in America’s
future and grow opportunities to increase equity in American research institutions.
Their existing university resources will be bolstered to build regional economic ecosystems
that support resiliency and inclusiveness.”

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