UWM Prof Throws Down Challenge To UWM Chancellor's Dream
You've got to hand it to economist Marc Levine: Looking at data, the UWM professor has directly challenged Chancellor Carlos Santiago's vision of an "entrepreneurial" university.
Levine's Crossroads op-ed is here.
His contention: efforts to turn universities into engines of economic development are ineffective.
At a minimum, let's hope Levine's documentation helps pull back the location and purpose for a UWM engineering and innovation graduate school that Santiago wants to locate on the County Grounds - - which Levine, and others argue will pull more capital away from Milwaukee, and undermine what a major University can and should do for its home city and community.
Unfotunately, there's a flaw in Dr Levine's argument.
If universities don't contribute to econ dev, then why his fuss about locating the new eng school in Milw over Tosa?
Other economic research points to the following: locating the school in Milw would yield greater economic benefits compared with the Tosa location. The reason: because public investments (especially in infrastrucuture) have more chances to generate positive externalities than in less dense, suburban sprawl areas. Basically, more people benefit from the public investment.
Will be interesting to read Dr. Levine's next missive from his new post - let's see what is the equivalent to Siberia in the UW system - as Dean of Janitorial Studies at UW Extension - Barron County.
Unfortunately most "public investment" by whatever branch of the public sector benefits only the public sector or their private sector "consultant" buddies.
Levine makes his bread and butter as a UWM professor. Odds are he spends his paychecks locally at small businesses, contributes to Milwaukee's "creative class", attends downtown events, supports MCTS directly or indirectly through taxes or university fees, or brings visitors to the City. Levine likes to stir up controversy without providing viable alternatives.
Economic development has far more to do with access to capital than the current vision of the University as an engine of economic growth. If you have the venture capital infrastructure, which Milwaukee decidedly does not, then research institution will naturally grow to fill the demand.
Santiago's vision is supply side economics. What works best is demand side.
The moribund state of local capital is evident in the fact that we are so dependent on the good graces of elderly, last generation entrepreneurs ... or old white guys. So we end up collectively kowtowing to Zilber, Cudahy, Lubar, et al. for funds to save projects, because the bench is so shallow and new more diverse generations are not climbing the ladder to wealth.
With out venture capital there are no ladders.
Stanford became a successful generator of economic development because of the VCs (Venture Capitalists) on Sand Hill Road. It would serve the community better if the local rich would put their money into local venture capital funds targeted at young local talent rather than brass nameplates on the sides of academic institutions.
I have heard Lubar say we have plenty of venture capital here, but that is only true for insiders and members of the old elite. Every aspect of local development is dominated by the same group of moribund old white guy insiders. The very same old white guy mentality is the common enemy that warps planning at UWM and SEWPC.
Some of us old white guys are having problems accepting change. The old concepts of the future are being crushed by scare resources, climate change, and globalization.
Put more venture capital in the hands of the next generation, and let them define our future.
The State's motto is 'Forward,' let's move that way.
Levine is correct. He's not saying universities don't contribute to economic development. He's simply stating that the 'university as economic engine' paradigm is largely ineffective.
Hopefully he's not banished to Siberia. We need more professors at our institutions of higher learning bringing their analysis to the public forum so that we can think more deeply and thoughtfully about the numerous challenges we face as a city and as a nation. If that research "stirs controversy," maybe it's because it has ruffled the feathers of the local power brokers. Someone has challenged their stranglehold on local investment and policy. This is a good thing.
Levine has offered "viable alternatives" for development of the City in his numerous studies at the Center for Economic Development.
By rigorous analysis of the proposal - UWM as economic engine, this report simply tries to nudge local leaders into using our development effort and dollars more efficiently.
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