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 October 8, 1999

Colorado Institute of Technology looking at Loveland

LOVELAND – Developers of a soon-to-boom technology business park and officials at Colorado’s largest public universities have taken steps toward making the Colorado Institute of Technology a Northern Colorado reality.

The talk is more than tentative, and those involved say a statewide network of high-tech research and training centers is likely to take root first at the Global Technology Center, a project spanning both sides of Interstate 25 at U.S. Highway 34 now under development by McWhinney Enterprises.

“We’ve been having conversations for some time about creating a high-tech institute within our development,´ said Nick Christensen, McWhinney’s vice president for real estate. “It’s in progress, and it’s something we’re very excited about. In the next couple of months, we hope we’ll be at a place where we can make some important announcements.”

University of Colorado President John Beuchner and CU regent Tom Lucero have toured the Global Technology Center site together, and a consensus is building around the idea of locating a major part of the new institute there.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better site, a better location or a better team than the McWhinneys and Christensen,” Lucero said. “The potential for this, and the prospects for it, are truly phenomenal.”

The McWhinneys are preparing to host a steady stream of delegations from Colorado’s higher-education community, including community colleges and private institutions. Two senior Colorado State University administrators visited the site in September, the first in the series

of visits.

“What I want to know is what their plans are, and how CSU can participate with the occupants of that center in a meaningful sort of way,´ said Judson Harper, CSU’s vice president for research and information sciences. “That goes all the way from continuing education to direct participation in some of the technology- and research-based activities there.”

The Colorado Institute of Technology, authorized by the state Legislature during the last session, will be designed partly to solve one of the state’s most pressing economic problems: While high-tech companies have become a mainstay of Northern Colorado’s economy, industry leaders are often hesitant to invest further because the region’s trained, high-tech

work force is small and thinly stretched.

McWhinney Enterprises President Chad McWhinney, who sits on Gov. Bill

Owens’ advisory council on high-tech and scientific issues, said a recent trip Owens made to California’s “Silicon Valley” illustrates the peril of the work-force shortage, and the promise industry offers if it is solved.

“In Silicon Valley alone, there is a shortage of 130,000 high-tech workers,” McWhinney said. “The problem is that these people don’t want to live in Silicon Valley. … What several of these companies have told our governor is that they will bring the jobs, if we commit to retraining and education. One thing is for sure, and that is that in order for these high-tech jobs to come to Colorado, this work force has to be available and well-trained.”

Creation of the CIT network of centers in Loveland and elsewhere will depend on what a top state higher-education official called “consolidation of assets” from among Colorado’s colleges and universities. But interviews with university officials foreshadow potential trouble spots as they

prepare to collaborate on the CIT project.

The state law calling for the creation of the institute also says the University of Colorado should coordinate the work to build it. A long history of mistrust and turf battles among the state’s top universities is worrisome to those who are working toward the technology institute’s

opening.

“The bill is very ‘CU-centric,’´ said Jeff Richardson, the top information-technology official at the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. Tim Foster, the state’s highest-ranking higher-education official and a member of Owens’ cabinet, “had wanted a broader effort that involved more of the other institutions,” Richardson said. “That is something that we will be working toward.”

The University of Northern Colorado’s point person in the project, Information Services Director Gary Hatch, said that academicians and industry partners need to rethink their roles if the CIT is to fulfill its mission of feeding the high-tech economy.

“If somebody could come up with a way to get employers together without their competitive positions getting in the way, and get the universities to come together without the turf issues, they would make a great contribution to civilization,” Hatch said.

Participants in discussions about the CIT describe a revolution in the way higher education and high-tech industry can work to solve the state’s labor crunch, and to make sure that the high-tech work force keeps pace with emerging technology. The institute will not have campuses in the traditional sense, but smaller centers where university and industry collaborators meet to design new tools for retraining and conduct research in information technology.

“It’s not a big, new building, and it’s not a separate, degree-granting institution,” Lucero said. “Yes, there is going to be a need for building space, but we don’t need a campus. We don’t need all that brick and mortar.”

But Lucero and McWhinney developers say that the institute could take tangible shape at the Global Technology Center as early as next spring, with space devoted to the project in a new building at the center.

Curriculum and content for the CIT would be guided not so much by what university professors are accustomed to teaching as by what high-tech employers say they need for their work force, Lucero said.

“What we are creating is a realm of education that is completely market-driven,” he said. “It’s not that we are compromising our integrity in higher education. We are branching out in a new direction. … We don’t know what the classroom is going to look like. We want people in the

private sector to tell us what it ought to look like.”

The state law creating the center suggests that both public and private money will pay the bills. Lucero said that if the CIT plan is properly implemented, the institute’s finances will take care of themselves.

“If we are going to be market-driven, we ought to be profitable,” he said. “For the universities, it’s almost a no-risk proposition.”

LOVELAND – Developers of a soon-to-boom technology business park and officials at Colorado’s largest public universities have taken steps toward making the Colorado Institute of Technology a Northern Colorado reality.

The talk is more than tentative, and those involved say a statewide network of high-tech research and training centers is likely to take root first at the Global Technology Center, a project spanning both sides of Interstate 25 at U.S. Highway 34 now under development by McWhinney Enterprises.

“We’ve been having conversations for some time about creating a high-tech institute within our development,´ said Nick Christensen, McWhinney’s vice president for real estate.…

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