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ISU brings major economic development for SE Idaho

Little do some students at Idaho State University realize their health research is one of the most significant contributions to the development of the local economy.

Dr. Howard Grimes is the university’s vice president of research and development and said ISU is striving to find new pathways toward bringing forth its new, developing technologies.

“We’re also looking to start placing industry and university folks side-by-side in our laboratories so they can develop innovative and new technologies these private companies need,” Grimes said.

This afternoon at the Pocatello Rotary Club’s meeting, Grimes announced his plan to help ISU become more flexible in order to reach out to local businesses.

The Pocatello Chamber of Commerce agrees the university is a driving force behind the region’s economic development.

“Idaho State University is our largest impact in the Pocatello area,” Director of the Pocatello Chamber of Commerce Matthew Hunter said. “All of the employees they have, all the students, everybody here who is spending money in the community has a huge impact.”

Hunter also mentioned the biggest contribution from the university is its health care work, which is constantly generating more jobs.

The Community Care Urgent Care and Family Practice center is a privately owned practice that knows firsthand the need to hire university students after they graduate.

“We’re actually looking for an LPN (licensed nurse practitioner right now,” the center’s clinic administrator, Levi Hansen, said. “We are trying to fill a part-time or full-time position or whatever we can find at this point.”

Grimes said the university needs to break into working with the private industry more because federal grants have been aminusculeimpact in higher-education funding. He mentioned the federal government spends a total of $400 billion on the nation’s research and development, however, the nation’s university research only gets one-quarter of that pie.

With nationwide budget cuts looming, Grimes said the bottom line is that it is still too early to tell what the exact impacts of those cuts will be on the university. Although the university will not be losing any of the grants it has already been awarded, Grimes mentioned future grants given by the federal government will start to diminish in size. In the meantime, he said with the way the nation has become so innovative, the positive impacts ISU has on the local community can remain sustained.

“The impact (of the cuts) to the nation is real, and it is not good, but we’re also a nation of creativity and finding new ways to do things. So we’ll marshal forward, we’ll be OK, we’ll continue to develop great, new ideas, and people like me will work to bring those ideas to the marketplace,” Grimes said.

Grimes also noted a recent report done by the Milken Institute indicates for every year of post-high school education in the local region, the region’s GDP grows between 10 and 12 percent.

Follow Kaitlin on Twitter: @KaitlinLoukides

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