Partnerships key to luring education sites to city

CARLSBAD — If the City Council is going to have any luck attracting a higher education institute to the city, and bring in all of the economic advantages that go with it, it will largely depend on the partnerships of local businesses.

Council has considered bringing a local branch of an existing college or university to the area as a producer of the educated workforce that Carlsbad companies seek.

The idea was first mentioned in one of its citywide goals workshops back in 2012.

“Obviously we’re starting down a path where we’re taking small steps. What I’m hearing is that this is going to be a path of collaboration,” said Mayor Matt Hall.

He and the rest of the Council received a presentation from hired consultants at their Nov. 12 meeting about the feasibility of bringing in an institution to the city.

All present agreed that there is a need for a graduate level, higher education or research institute to provide the engineers, software engineers, programmers, MBAs and the like for the city’s hub of technology and biotech companies.

While encouraging, the consultants emphasized the extensive amount of challenges and work necessary to recruit a higher education institute.

For one, the city needs to market itself as a desirable location for such an institution, according to the consultants. This is a challenge given that many around the country have not heard of the city.

“Outside of California, most people haven’t heard of Carlsbad except for as the site of Legoland,” said Steve Jacobs of consulting firm K. Backus & Associates.

“They don’t understand what a valuable business region we are,” added Carlsbad’s Community and Economic Director Kathy Dodson.

With universities looking towards online expansion rather than physical expansion, there aren’t as many higher education institutions that are looking to establish the types of satellite campuses Carlsbad is hoping to draw, according to Jacobs.

The consultants stressed the city’s need to leverage industry contacts and offerings to overcome these challenges.

“I mentioned Carlsbad not being known outside of San Diego, but a lot of your companies are,” Jacobs explained.

He said that offering partnerships with Carlsbad’s big name companies would heighten the city’s value.

But because universities are, “in the business to lose money,” the city would still need to lure potentials with free land, facilities, and/or other cost-saving incentives, said Kathy Backus of K. Backus & Associates.

“I can’t stress how important it is for you as city council and business leaders to be at the front of this initiative,” Backus said.

The consultants advised the city to approach its industry leaders about prospective contributions, continue outreach to institutions and develop a request for expressions of interest for higher education institutes over the coming months to move forward.

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