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Agreement will team colleges to help grow western Wisconsin

An agreement to be signed on Thursday will tie four of the region's public colleges and universities together to help grow business in both the St. Croix and Chippewa Valley regions.

The agreement is called "Educational Partnership for Regional Development" and will allow the schools to work together to help businesses in the region.

"Those of us in the St. Croix and Chippewa valleys have known for quite some time that we are committed in our collaboration to develop the 'IQ Corridor' that spans I-94," said Don Betz, University of Wisconsin-River Falls chancellor.

The agreement will be signed at a ceremony in the atrium of Millennium Hall on the UW-Stout campus in Menomonie at 9:45 a.m. The guest speaker will be Mary Burke, Wisconsin Department of Commerce secretary.

The four schools involved include the UW-River Falls, UW-Stout, UW-Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley Technical College.

"We recognize we are key players in the economic development of the region," said Mark Kinders, a UW-River Falls' spokesman.

Kinders said that with the agreement, businesses will be able to approach one institution and then gain access to the resources of all four.

"There's a tremendous amount of expertise at all of our institutions to help businesses," Kinders said.

He noted that the St. Croix Valley region is one of the fastest growing in the state and that they want to help make it possible for people to not only live in the area, but work here too.

"We businesses in the Twin Cities are partners and we want to help them develop their business in western Wisconsin," Kinders said.

Doug Mell, a UW-Stout spokesman, pointed out that the universities already help small to medium companies in the region to help make their processes more proficient, but now they will also be able to make available research.

"We have a tremendous amount of applied research which we will make available to help businesses," Mell said.

Mell said another way the colleges can help is with their main product - students.

Mell said the three chancellors and the president of CVTC will be taking a hard look at curriculum at the schools.

"They'll look at the curriculum at all four institutions and how it meets the needs of the workforce," Mell said. "They are going to look at what is taught and how it is taught to go hand and glove with the needs of business."

"We've heard loud and clear from the Legislature that they want the UW to prepare students for the workforce and we are responding to that," he added.

Kinders said that the chancellors and outreach counselors from the institutions will be meeting in the next few weeks to take a look at where they are at and where the region is heading in the future, and how they can help business.

The agreement that will be signed is an update to a similar agreement in 2000, however that agreement did not include UW-River Falls, according to Mell.

Brady Bautch is the Internet Publisher for the RiverTown Newspaper Group. He can be contacted at