Monday, December 6, 2021
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Chancellor Morton: Fund Universities, Don’t “Flush” Them

Gov. Greitens has focused on cutting funds from universities, but Chancellor Leo Morton says the aim instead ought to be on developing them.

According to the Missouri Department of Revenue’s 2016 Financial Report, about 90 percent of state revenue comes from income and sales taxes.

Both of these revenues relate to jobs. Universities help to create and expand jobs. And Morton believes that’s where the governor needs to focus.

“Instead of trying to cut, cut, cut – and to me that’s like spiraling down the porcelain orifice, like being flushed,” Morton said. “You can’t keep that up forever. You’ve got to increase revenues, which means you’ve got to increase jobs – high quality jobs. And that’s what universities do.”

Morton highlighted EyeVerify, a technology that came out of UMKC’s School of Computing and Engineering. EyeVerify scans the user’s unique eye vessel structure to secure mobile devices and other technologies.

“[EyeVerify’s technology] sold for more than $100 million after only two years,” Morton said. “They have 50 employees, and they’re trying to quadruple that number, and that’s in this state.”

Morton thinks cutting funds from universities harms the state just as much as the universities themselves. He said Gov. Greitens needs to invest in universities so they can continue to foster job creation and expansion, as demonstrated by EyeVerify and other local companies.

Thanks in part to its unique location in the heart of a major city, UMKC provides resources and support for local businesses through a variety of programs and initiatives.

UMKC’s Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) is one such program. The dual emphasis on research and economic development, according to Vice Chancellor Lawrence Dreyfus, “ensures that we are mindful of our obligation to provide solutions that positively impact the lives of Missouri citizens through education and job creation.”

“We intentionally engage in opportunities to expand our local and state economies through entrepreneurship and creative innovation,” Dreyfus said, highlighting the office’s core goal of creating jobs for Missourians.

ORED works closely with the Office of Technology Commercialization to translate academic research into practical, job-creating endeavors.

According to Dreyfus, the Office of Technology Commercialization provides networking, education and advocacy for moving discoveries from the university lab to the marketplace. The office helps researchers protect intellectual property, decide when to publish and patent and explore the research’s commercial potential.

UMKC programs like the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) and the Innovation Center also work with ORED to help local entrepreneurs build and grow businesses.

Matt Bramlette is the owner of Mid Coast Modern, a shop which features goods handcrafted by local artists and designers. After attending a five-week course taught by SBTDC, Bramlette built Mid Coast Modern from the ground up. Last year, Bramlette’s company was named a 2016 Rising Star of Entrepreneurship. Recently, he moved locations to a larger space in Westport.

Mid Coast Modern’s owner, Matt Bramlette, attended a five-week class with the Small Busines and Technology Development Center.
Mid Coast Modern’s owner, Matt Bramlette, attended a five-week class with the Small Busines and Technology Development Center.

Bramlette says two years after he first approached SBTDC for help starting his business, the center continues to support Mid Coast Modern by checking in and offering a steady stream of advice for continued growth.

In addition to helping entrepreneurs launch new businesses, ORED programs also help existing businesses grow and innovate.

With help from UMKC, Kiley Sutter expanded his bike repair/beer shop Velo Wagon from a mobile company – based out of a 1969 Volkswagon van – into a full blown repair shop and tap house with multiple locations in the metro area.

Earlier this month, Sutter and business partner Steve Borden opened a new 3000-square-foot location in North Kansas City that they share with fellow entrepreneur Vincent Rodriguez, who also works with UMKC’s business development programs.

These UMKC programs and their success stories lead Morton to believe that cutting funding for universities could hurt job growth more than it helps.

“Those kinds of things can help revenue, but [government officials] need to support us in helping to get these kinds of things started,” Morton said. “UMKC in my opinion is in the best position to help the governor improve conditions in the state.”

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