By JIMMY LAWTON
POTSDAM -- Hoping to make use of the $4 million New York Power Authority-funded study from the McKinsey Group, Clarkson held an event Thursday that connected economic developers and entrepreneurs at the university’s Shipley Center.
The event allowed the advisory group working to implement the study to engage with business owners, entrepreneurs and faculty & staff associated with Clarkson's Shipley Center for Innovation in the Peyton Hall Business Incubator and other properties on Clarkson's downtown Potsdam campus.
The goal was to show the group “what it takes to retain area college graduates, why firms chose to relocate to the region, and the resources available to support commercialization of new technology and innovation,”
St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency CEO Patrick Kelly said the event was sort of an eye-opening meeting that he sees as a small step toward implementing the ideas put forward by the McKinsey Study.
The group toward Clarkson’s small business incubator at Peyton Hall and met with some of the entrepreneurs growing their businesses out of the Shipley Center. Matt Draper, who oversees the center, said 34 businesses employing roughly 42 people are based there.
Among the entrepreneurs who met with officials Thursday were Shawn Clark, who aims to bring 100 manufacturing jobs to the area and Russ Marvin of L.C. Drives, who hopes to add about 10 jobs as he moves his company from the design phase to the manufacturing phase.
While Kelly and Draper frequently work with together to help to transition these start-up businesses to companies of scale, many people locally and from afar don’t see the collaboration. Kelly said a common knock on government officials, economic development agencies and planners is a lack of collaboration.
Kelly said that these groups do collaborate, but there is room for improvement and a need to raise awareness among the public and potential entrepreneurs and investors. Kelly and draper said it’s important that the public and potential investors see that collaboration, because it’s a powerful incentive in itself.
“We can do a better job of connecting; making people understand of what the resources are and how they can work together. We need to make sure that we are highlighting the potential collaboration with colleges, no just with groups we are trying to bring to the area, but to some of existing businesses that can maybe we take advantage of the opportunities.”
Kelly said that one of the findings in the McKinsey study is that a key to economic growth in this region may hinge more on growing the county’s existing businesses and helping small start-ups finding success than pulling in companies from other areas.
He said Clarkson President Tony Collins spoke yesterday about the university’s effort toward achieving that goal, which has been a priority for the Shipley center for the past several years.
Kelly said now the IDA will be taking that concept and the findings from the McKinsey report and begin incorporating them into the county’s comprehensive development study.