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 November 19, 1999

Developers woo colleges for tech park

LOVELAND — Testing a cooperative spirit among Northern Colorado’s universities and colleges, developers of a high-tech business park are inviting academics to gather for a daylong meeting to plan a work-force training center at their site.

And without any assurance that the initiative will be part of the Colorado Institute of Technology proposed by Gov. Bill Owens, officials at five institutions still are expressing enthusiasm for the idea.

McWhinney Enterprises Inc., planners of the Global Technology Center at the intersection of Interstate 25 and U.S. Highway 34, call their initiative the Northern Colorado Higher Education Consortium.

A top University of Colorado administrator said Chad and Troy McWhinney and company Vice President Nick Christensen were pursuing an “ambitious plan” for a technology training center and said he was optimistic that the five institutions would commit to the project.

Stu Takeuchi, vice president for administration for the statewide University of Colorado system, said his conversations with the developers indicated they have broadened their training center concept beyond that described in earlier discussions with CU officials, extending its reach to employers throughout the Greeley-Longmont-Fort Collins region.

“I think they are absolutely serious people, and they are also real people,” he said. “What they are talking about is a consortium of educational services for employers in the triangle. That’s a bigger idea that we thought we were meeting with the McWhinneys about originally. They have a broader concept, which is fine. It’s a little more complicated, but fine.”

CU regent Tom Lucero — after August meetings that he, Takeuchi and CU President John Buechner had with the McWhinneys — had described a center that would likely affiliate with the Colorado Institute of Technology, an institute authorized during the last state legislative session to help solve the state’s high-tech labor-force shortfall.

But revisions in plans for the CIT, as described by newly appointed state Secretary of Technology Marc Holtzman, would make the McWhinneys’ education initiative an independent one.

The McWhinney plan is spelled out in an Oct. 15 letter to presidents of the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, the University of Northern Colorado, Front Range Community College and Aims Community College. The purpose of the consortium, according to a concept plan that accompanied the invitation, is to “collaborate and coordinate the offering of education and learning support services to employers in northern Colorado, generally within the triangle of Fort Collins, Greeley and Longmont.”

The McWhinneys also acknowledge in their plan that one purpose of the training institute, beyond work-force development and training, is to “add value to the development of the Global Technology Center … “

Takeuchi said it was natural that the developers reap some benefit, given that the McWhinneys seem prepared to commit space to the project.

“As business interests, they would like us to add value to their deal,” Takeuchi said. “I have no problem with that.”

On the proposed agenda for the meeting is a discussion of how the consortium would fit with state plans for the Colorado Institute of Technology. Takeuchi and others involved in the early stages of the consortium planning said participants in the Northern Colorado initiative should regard their work as independent of any statewide plan.

“I agree with Holtzman’s notion that the Colorado Institute of Technology has a life of its own, and must continue to form,” Takeuchi said. “What we are doing is something completely different.”

The difference between the two concepts has become more clear with Holtzman’s expressed view that the CIT form as a free-standing institute. Les Race, dean of Aims Community College’s Loveland campus, said his contacts with other institutions have led him to think a high-tech training center will develop at the McWhinney property regardless of what direction the CIT planners take.

“The community colleges have a big role to play here,” he said. “We have the ability to answer the needs of the work force on a very timely basis. We can get a call today and put a course together by next week.”

John Ebersole, associate provost at Colorado State University and head of CSU’s Division of Educational Outreach, also said the change in state officials’ thinking about the Colorado Institute of Technology opened doors for members of the regional consortium.

“What I am now hearing them talk about is the traditional approach,” Ebersole said of Holtzman and other CIT organizers’ plans for a four-year, degree-granting institute.

“But knowledge that’s relevant in the first year of a four-year program might not be relevant in years three and four. What we need, and what the employers tell us they want, is relevant, timely training — and they want it delivered now.”

Likewise, Front Range Community College spokesman John Feeley said the consortium had an opportunity to fill a gap that would be created by the CIT’s change in focus.

“It certainly makes sense for the community colleges to be involved,” Feeley said. “For every engineer that goes to work for a high-tech employer, how many technicians do these companies employ? That is where our focus is.”

LOVELAND — Testing a cooperative spirit among Northern Colorado’s universities and colleges, developers of a high-tech business park are inviting academics to gather for a daylong meeting to plan a work-force training center at their site.

And without any assurance that the initiative will be part of the Colorado Institute of Technology proposed by Gov. Bill Owens, officials at five institutions still are expressing enthusiasm for the idea.

McWhinney Enterprises Inc., planners of the Global Technology Center at the intersection of Interstate 25 and U.S. Highway 34, call their initiative the Northern Colorado Higher Education Consortium.

A top University of Colorado administrator said…

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