Magazine article University Business

There's No Place like Home: Strategies to Build Town-Gown Relations

Magazine article University Business

There's No Place like Home: Strategies to Build Town-Gown Relations

Article excerpt

In our efforts to market and communicate with our various constituents, we often overlook one of the most important support groups we have--our college town.

It's not intentional. As long time neighbors, we simply take one another for granted. Bur that's changing as institutions and their local governments look to one another for creative ways to collaborate and maximize financial and capital resources.

Colleges and universities are typically the economic engines that drive the quality of life in their local towns. They tend to attract a diverse population, ranging from young professionals to retired senior adults. They also encourage industrial research and development, a better mix of retail and vast opportunities in the arts and athletics.

The need and desire for universities and their communities to become better dance partners has led to the creation of a nonprofit association focused solely on establishing and enhancing better community relations--the International Town and Gown Association, based in Clemson, S.C.

The ITGA's network of resources is helping more than 200 colleges, universities and municipal governments come together on issues such as mixed-use development opportunities, the quality of life around the edge of campus and in off-campus housing areas, and sharing water, fire, police and other services.

"We are seeing town-gown relations being strengthened in communities around areas that are of common interest and benefit," says ITGA Executive Director Beth Bagwell. "College towns are growing economically through stronger university-community partnerships that nurture startups and promote regional/local economic development opportunities."

Successful town-gown efforts do not happen overnight. They take time, commitment, patience, creativity and a willingness from both parties to give and take. College and university public relations and marketing professionals can play an instrumental role in developing and enhancing these relations:

* Establish a "Town-Gown Commission" consisting of representatives from the community, university and municipality to share ideas and address common challenges. This body will carry more weight if the local mayor and the college's president jointly give it their charge and appoint the executive team. …

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