When you visit vibrant, forward thinking, growing communities, you will always find they are the home to great universities. These are universities that are significant economic drivers for their regions.

UCCS has always aspired to be that university for the Pikes Peak region and Southern Colorado. Our long history of serving the community is alive and well as the recent explosion in growth at UCCS is helping to propel our region forward. With a student population of more than 10,000 students, current and future capital construction projects totaling more than $125 million, UCCS is at the tipping point of making a real difference in our region’s future.

UCCS has a goal by 2020 to have $750 million in annual economic impact to our region.

[pullquote]Conversations through Regional Connect have been initiated in our community to address infrastructure needs on North Nevada Avenue for the university’s north campus development.[/pullquote]

All of public higher education in Colorado faces increasing challenges. The different institutions have goals of growing their campus and maintaining excellence at the same time they are experiencing decreasing state resources and escalating pressures to keep a cap on tuition increases. UCCS is no exception.

All of this leads to one pressing question: How can UCCS find innovative, creative avenues of generating new revenue streams, keep tuition increases low, maintain our high quality and effectively serve our region?

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We believe one of the answers is a new program we’ve created at UCCS called Regional Connect.

The concept of Regional Connect is quite simple: Identify, recruit and grow innovative public/private partnerships that will leverage university resources to accelerate the growth of UCCS, contribute to a strong skilled workforce for the region, attract investment and bring long-lasting benefits to Southern Colorado.

Regional Connect focuses on five outcomes: revenue generation, growing university research, creating jobs, providing opportunities to students and providing value to the community.

Regional Connect is comprised of nine community leaders and five UCCS staff who represent diverse organizations and who have the ability to aggressively create and move opportunities forward.

In just a few months after being implemented, Regional Connect and its members are already making things happen.

For example: Conversations through Regional Connect have been initiated in our community to address infrastructure needs on North Nevada Avenue for the university’s north campus development.

Regional Connect members have found a way to conduct an important economic impact study to determine the total impact that North Nevada development will have on our region. Efforts are also underway to create a formal community partnership to bolster the university’s international student programs.

UCCS is looking for partnerships in many strategic priority areas such as health care, sports medicine and performance, secondary trauma, the arts, the aging population, homeland security, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), to name a few.

The key to Regional Connect’s success will be the aggressive nature of our group in identifying and pursuing opportunities and leaders in our region, stepping up to present opportunities, and engaging in ways that position both the university and our region to benefit from the outcomes of the partnership. We welcome you to connect with us and discuss mutually beneficial opportunities that meet our criteria and goals. For more, contact Stephannie Finley, executive director of university advocacy and partnerships at UCCS, at 255-3185.

Martin Wood, vice chancellor for university advancement and chief operating officer at UCCS, also is chairman of the Center for Regional Advancement and serves on the boards of the Colorado Springs Sports Corp. and the Regional Leadership Forum. Contact him at mwood@uccs.edu.