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 December 3, 1999

5 colleges join in tech-center talks

LOVELAND — Action came closer to matching rhetoric as officials from Colorado’s three largest universities and two community colleges prepared to meet for talks on establishing a high-tech training center in Loveland.

For months, university officials led by University of Colorado regent Tom Lucero and Stu Takeuchi, vice president for administration for the CU system, had been contemplating a cooperative center for high-tech learning at the fast-developing Global Technology Center at Interstate 25 and U.S. Highway 34.

While the Nov. 22 meeting took place after Business Report press deadlines, participants said in advance that institutional rivalry would not impede their collaboration on the project.

“We’re very interested in seeing what can be done there,´ said Judd Harper, Colorado State University’s vice president for research and information science. “Each of these institutions offers real strengths, each different from one another.”

The five-college meeting was to be hosted by the McWhinney brothers, Chad and Troy, who have plans for a high-tech business development that would rival Boulder County’s Interlocken business park in its scope.

In addition to CU and CSU, the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley-based Aims Community College and Front Range Community College were to send delegates to the meeting.

The McWhinneys and college representatives are focused on remedies for the technology work-force shortage — a looming obstacle on the path toward future development of Northern Colorado’s high-tech economy.

Takeuchi, who has been working closely with the McWhinneys to organize the tech-center drive, said plans for a Loveland training center made good geographic sense, and that the McWhinney development offered a logical setting.

He also said the developers’ vision for a work-force training center had become broader since initial discussions with Lucero and CU President John Beuchner in August. Their plans are for an institute that would serve the interests of technology employers in Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley and Longmont.

“I think they are absolutely serious people, and they are also real people,” Takeuchi told The Business Report earlier. “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.”

Lucero said after the August meetings that a center at the McWhinney’s Loveland development likely would 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 grand-scale 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.

Holtzman and Gov. Bill Owens last week were preparing to meet with

Microsoft Chief Executive and Chairman Bill Gates to discuss plans for a technology

institute in Colorado that eventually would rival such universities as the

Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The McWhinneys, in inviting university and college presidents to send

delegates to the meetings, were candid in describing their own interests in

setting up what they called the Northern Colorado Higher Education

Consortium.

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, because

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 was 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 — Action came closer to matching rhetoric as officials from Colorado’s three largest universities and two community colleges prepared to meet for talks on establishing a high-tech training center in Loveland.

For months, university officials led by University of Colorado regent Tom Lucero and Stu Takeuchi, vice president for administration for the CU system, had been contemplating a cooperative center for high-tech learning at the fast-developing Global Technology Center at Interstate 25 and U.S. Highway 34.

While the Nov. 22 meeting took place after Business Report press deadlines, participants said in advance that institutional rivalry would not impede their collaboration on…

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