Boldy building Niagara's future
St. Catharines Standard (March 23, 2009)
The root of Niagara's prosperity will be training and retaining people with post-secondary education. It's simple -- the western world's economic structure has changed, and the emerging model is based on knowledge.
Those regions and cities that create the infrastructure to link into knowledge-based industries and systems will be best positioned to be competitive in the new economy.
Much like hydropower and the canal attracted industries to Niagara in the last century -- creating jobs and prosperity in the industrial age -- the power of Brock University and Niagara College must be harnessed to position Niagara in the post-industrial economic age.
Niagara is fortunate to have two post-secondary institutions. Both Brock and Niagara College are key assets to the region's future economic development. In the recently-released Paths to Prosperity Report by the St. Catharines-Thorold Prosperity Council, Brock and Niagara College have been identified as important partners in all five paths developed by the council. Clearly, our collective prosperity will be tied to a strong, progressive college and university.
This hasn't gone unnoticed by the leaders of both institutions. Both Dan Patterson, president of Niagara College, and Jack Lightstone, president of Brock University, understand the role that post-secondary education will play in the new, emerging economic realities facing our region, province and country. In fact, they have both expanded the role of their institutions to include partnering in community economic development as part of their mandate -- a role that is so far unique in Niagara.
Yet, the most significant contribution of both individuals so far has been the development of visionary expansion projects at the schools. Last fall, Niagara College launched its Building Futures Campaign in support of a major campus redevelopment plan. The $16.5-million campaign seeks to raise the community portion of the funds required for the $50-million master plan, which includes $48 million for buildings, equipment and learning resources, and $2 million for scholarships and bursaries.
A few weeks ago Brock launched the biggest capital fundraising initiative in its history -- the campaign for a Bold New Brock. The target is to raise $75 million to increase endowments for student financial assistance, to invest in teaching and research facilities, to expand knowledge and to empower its faculty as educator-researchers and innovators. The university has already raised $34 million -- including the largest single donation in the history of Niagara's philanthropy, $15 million from Marilyn Walker. Brock's campaign includes a $100-million biosciences research complex and the relocation of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts and the Niagara Centre for the Performing Arts to downtown St. Catharines.
In total, Brock and Niagara College are looking to raise $125 million to create institutions that are ready for the 21st century. It's an ambitious number, representing solid planning and visionary thinking. And quite honestly, both campaigns are attainable. Too often in Niagara we shy away from challenges defaulting to the, "It's too big, too much, too large," excuse -- these are big, bold projects, and we can't afford to shy away.
The St. Catharines-Thorold Chamber of Commerce is committed to assisting both institutions with their respective campaigns. We share their vision that a stronger Niagara will come from highly educated and well-trained workforce, and that our collective prosperity will be closely tied to the knowledge-based economy.
Remember, it took thousands of people to build our canals and hydro plants -- and look what happened to our region.
It will take the same number of people -- if not more -- to build the future for Brock and Niagara College, and the impact on our region will be just as great.