New director, website devoted to helping area businesses

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Photo of Lisa .

Garcia

KALAMAZOO--A new staff member who will work with area businesses and a new website designed to serve the business community are setting the tone for Western Michigan University's role in a statewide initiative aimed at putting higher education resources to work to create jobs.

WMU's local business engagement office is part of the Michigan Corporate Relations Network--M-CRN. The unit will be led by Lisa Garcia, a marketing and advertising veteran and native of Kalamazoo, and it is designed to be a one-stop shop to provide business access to University expertise and student talent.

Garcia's appointment was finalized just as the University launched its Business Connection website, which outlines the type of research and business services available to businesses through WMU. The website, wmich.edu/businessconnection, is linked to a statewide network made up of WMU and four other Michigan research universities--Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan's campuses in Ann Arbor and Dearborn.

Together, the six campuses comprise the M-CRN initiative, which was funded by a $1.8 million award from the Michigan Strategic Fund and launched last fall. The network will create partnerships that will connect state industry to critical university assets in a way that will help the Michigan economy grow and prosper. Collectively, the schools conduct 98 percent of the academic research done in Michigan and produce 99 percent of all patent activity among Michigan universities. The schools enroll more than 160,000 students across the state.

Garcia has more than 13 years of experience at various marketing, advertising and design agencies in New York, Chicago and Dallas. Her clients have included Nickelodeon, Wal-Mart and Geoffrey Beene. Garcia spent the past five years at Schawk & Anthem providing strategic design solutions for Kellogg and has worked on brands including Special K, Pop-Tarts and FiberPlus. Garcia earned her bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and a master's in advertising from the University of Texas-Austin.

The new WMU website provides a mechanism for local businesses to contact WMU to find faculty experts, get help with business or marketing plans, obtain research assistance, or hire an intern or regular employee. Among other resources outlined on the site are startup assistance, technology transfer tools and advice on navigating legislative and community affairs.

Each of the research universities involved have established a local business engagement office. Among other initiatives planned for the network are:

  • Launch of a Small-Company Innovation Program, which will help companies partner with universities for applied research and development of identified technologies.
  • Creation of a Small-Company Internship Award program to encourage student job placements with innovative and dynamic company partners within Michigan and provide funding for students to work as interns.
  • Development of a business portal to provide the private sector with a single-point-of-access Web tool for searching faculty expertise across the M-CRN universities.
  • Increased access to university library resources, reducing the cost barrier to library resources for small companies in Michigan and connecting companies to the Michigan Information Transfer Source program of the UM Library System.
  • Creation of an Instant Innovation Program that brings faculty experts from the universities together with Michigan companies to tackle significant business and research challenges identified by the companies in a daylong, facilitated brainstorming session.