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Editorial: Harness U to business

The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents conducted its annual retreat this week in Red Wing. The location was a departure from recent past practice — a move we see as indicative of new Chair Richard Beeson’s leadership. He intends to hold several more meetings in his two-year term away from the Twin Cities campuses.

Good. Regents will see more of Greater Minnesota at work.

“It’s a little bit of the theme: Trying to connect with business and business people — both symbolically and substantively,” Beeson told the Republican Eagle after meetings wrapped up Friday.

They couldn’t have selected a better place to get off on the right foot. The 12 regents spent two days prioritizing their goals for the year, which began July 1. But they also took a break during their “structured brainstorming” and met with Red Wing Shoe Co. President Dave Murphy before touring the local plant. Beeson said he was impressed.

We hope regents carry the lessons from their field trip with them when they return to their Minneapolis boardroom/classroom. We believe that harnessing post-secondary institutions — students, educators and researchers — to the state’s economic drivers is a must.

Minnesota has more than 20 Fortune 500 companies and many more manufacturers with strong international reputations. Yet the University of Minnesota focuses only 5 percent of its research efforts on the needs of industry.

Beeson, a St. Paul banker and Minnesota Chamber of Commerce member, realizes that must change. Certainly that’s true because the U will need new money as mainstay federal research funding declines, but also because all of Minnesota benefits when the answers to industrial challenges are homegrown.