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ASU's West campus helps retain, expand businesses in Glendale

May 29, 2009

Arizona State University’s growing West campus, a focal point of the burgeoning West Valley, has been called upon to assist the City of Glendale’s Economic Development Department in a program designed to retain and expand its existing businesses.  The West campus is joined in the partnership by the city, the Glendale Chamber of Commerce and Glendale Community College.

“The West campus was asked to participate in this unique partnership program because of its importance to Glendale and the entire West Valley,” says Dave McAlindin, economic development administrator for Glendale.

“As we were looking to roll out our business retention and expansion program, we felt (the West campus) was a very important resource and could play a significant role in assisting the Glendale business community and add substantial value to our program.”

The program focuses on existing businesses and the increased employment opportunities each represents, while also seeking to build the solid relationships necessary to grow new jobs locally.  The program’s executive summary notes, “…up to 80 percent of all new jobs in a community come from existing businesses already in town, 11 percent comes from newly locating facilities, and 9 percent comes from entrepreneurial operations.”  Seeking to bolster existing business within the borders of the state’s fourth-largest city, teams of community representatives, including ASU’s Elaine Jordan, will make direct calls on the CEO, owner, or designee of Glendale companies to gather data on the company and its industry.  Teams will also assist companies in understanding and avoiding marketplace and workforce challenges that could result in relocation or closure.

Data collected in the initial phase of the program will be closely analyzed to identify such factors as the training and technical assistance needs of each existing business, future plans of the business, and community perceptions of the business.  At the end of the visitations, a report will be produced that will identify tools and resources to help retain and create jobs.

“This will be an ongoing program, and these first visits and surveys are only the beginning,” says Jordan, who is the director of the student internship program at ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.  “This is a real opportunity for this campus – our faculty, staff and students – to further our outreach in the West Valley community and be a part of real-world solutions.  One of the features of the interviews is how these four organizations working together can help with the challenges facing businesses in this community.”

Jordan, who will begin a three-year term this fall as a member of the Liaison Advisory Board of the prestigious Washington Center for Internships, is excited for the practical experience the program will offer ASU students.

“Businesses already know about our students because of our internship programs,” she says.  “There are many opportunities through this retention and expansion program, including internship opportunities, but also for student participation in real-world problem solving.  Be it a class or a group project, students will have a chance to deal with specific issues facing a business enterprise or even the community as a whole.”

McAlindin, who says that a successful and thriving business climate is critical to reducing unemployment, hopes ASU will continue as a longtime partner in the ongoing program.

“The initial phase is about two-thirds complete,” he says.  “Once we have completed this phase, we should be able to see trends emerge and perhaps common issues identified among Glendale companies that one or more of our partners can address.

“This is intended to be an on-going program and not simply a project with a definite beginning and end.  There are many businesses in Glendale, both large and small, we would like to visit and whose feedback is most important to our next steps.  We hope ASU will continue its active involvement once this initial phase is complete.”

Meanwhile, Jordan says the changing career scene makes the City of Glendale program a winner for students, as more and more employers seek candidates with multiple internships completed and civic engagement listed on their résumés.

“In addition to what such an experience will look like on a résumé, the experience students will receive through their participation in this retention and expansion program will broaden their horizons.  It will make them more aware of community issues and, subsequently, better citizens.

“Participation in this program allows us to lend expertise to the community in many different ways, ranging from compiling and analyzing statistical data to environmental and urban planning, and from helping development programs assist low-income or at-risk youth stay in school to addressing specific business challenges with enthusiasm and a new way to look at the issues.”