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Over the summer Dave Eckmann, formerly the economic development director for the Marathon County Development Corporation was named special assistant to the chancellor for economic development purposes at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
“From a broad point of view, it is my job to connect the university and all its assets to the regents throughout the community for economic development purposes,” Eckmann said. “Economic development is a comprehensive thought, a set of programs and policies that are designed to improve the quality of life and economic well-being of the surrounding area.”
The UW System associate vice president for economic development, David Brukardt, said “in his new role, Dave will help UW-Stevens Point to further connect university talent with regional business and industry innovation, entrepreneurship and economic expansion statewide.”
Chancellor Bernie Patterson also spoke highly of Eckmann and his work ethic shortly after his appointment this past July.
“Dave is a well-respected leader with a proven record of successful economic development and a passion for education,” Patterson said. “He is a great fit for this new position. UW-Stevens Point will be one of the first comprehensive universities in the state to have a staff member who is focused entirely on creating and strengthening economic development partnerships between the business community and the university.”
According to Eckmann UWSP is currently spearheading several initiatives with the intent to develop strong partnerships with local businesses and external stakeholders, perhaps the most pertinent being the university’s relation to the constantly growing paper industry throughout the state.
“What we’re trying to do is take the excellence that we have here with paper science and engineering and the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology and really start a strong partnership with the Wisconsin paper industry,” Eckmann said. “They’re moving toward a more competitive direction for the state, and this university can play a big role in that from north to south.”
Eckmann said these initiatives do not always go according to plan. Earlier this year, plans for an off- campus entrepreneurial center, which would allow students and community members the means to create and market their own small business endeavors, were postponed due to a larger-than-expected building fee.
“What it was envisioned to be, and is still envisioned to be, is a place that not only serves the university, but also the students, the faculty and the public. It’s going to be a place where they can take their entrepreneurial ideas, get assistance to all those ideas, get them on paper, and help get the resources in place where they can actually get funding to start a small business,” Eckmann said.
Despite this setback, Eckmann remained adamant that this plan could eventually become a reality and said initiatives like these are dependent on student participation.
“When you hit a roadblock you can either choose to stop and quit, or you can try to navigate around and find different solutions, and that’s the mode we’re in now,” Eckmann said. “The students are critically important, because if we can identify what we have at this university we can better connect to our communities and businesses.”