May 26, 2013

University a community resource

I am most heartened when I see examples of ways that government can leverage the best resources among us to make our economy stronger. The recent proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Tax-Free NY is one such mechanism — if it can be implemented to its utmost effectiveness.

The governor’s concept is not unfamiliar. Cuomo and SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher believe that our universities are community resources. Of course, we have always understood that they educate our children and allow them to be more productive. That benefits the overall economy, too. However, there is also a broader vision.

Our colleges harbor the expertise needed to advance our economies. Some expertise is devoted to imparting knowledge to the next generation. Some is used to govern the college and ensure it remains relevant and useful as our economy’s and society’s needs evolve. But, a good share of that expertise ought to stand ready to be tapped by our community in ways outside the classroom.

Of course, we all devote our energies to help our communities. We help our churches, our community-service groups, our school boards and our town councils. Some of those efforts are part of good citizenship, some are in a professional capacity.

I have CPA friends who lend their expertise to help with the books of non-profit organizations. Dentists and doctors offer their services at free clinics. Those who are skilled with their hands help build schools in Nicaragua, or rebuild our own communities when they are damaged by floods. There are many ways each of us can use our skills.

A college is a storehouse of such skills. The governor’s initiative encourages universities to reach out to our business sector and help them in any way we can. The state will ante up, too, by offering tax advantages to new businesses willing to create jobs here.

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