Latest news from CMU bodes well for business

The Business Times frequently reports stories about various degree programs and the other efforts of Colorado Mesa University to prepare students for the workplace. The stories are important because CMU students constitute an important component of the local labor market. Moreover, what happens on the CMU campus in Grand Junction has far-reaching ramifications not only for the Grand Valley, but also Western Colorado.

As most readers undoubtedly already have noticed, this issue of the Business Times reports not one, but two stories, about CMU programs — more specifically, mechanical engineering degree programs as well as a new innovation center under construction as part of a dormitory renovation project. The news bodes well for businesses as well as the economy.

Out of a total of 59 students who’ve graduated since 2012 from a mechanical engineering partnership program between CMU and the University of Colorado and an applied mechanical engineering degree program at CMU, fully half work in engineering jobs in Grand Junction.

That number might not be particularly large in terms of an overall labor force in Mesa County that totals nearly 74,000. But the proportion has been described as “huge” in terms of supplying demand for new engineers among local manufacturers. The situation also dispels at least in part the notion CMU grads have to leave the Grand Valley to find opportunity.

The executive one of local manufacturer that’s hired five grads from the mechanical engineering program says his new hires are not only as qualified as applicants from elsewhere, but also want to remain in the area. That helps to increase retention and reduce costs associated with turnover.

There’s broader implications for the growing programs in helping existing manufacturers meet their staffing needs and recruiting new manufacturers. That’s not to mention the potential for entrepreneurial engineers to go into business for themselves.

Speaking of entrepreneurial students at CMU, the Maverick Innovation Center under construction in Pinon Hall will offer them more resources to turn their ideas into ventures — including no less a place to live and learn.

The center will come equipped with white boards, common areas and a conference room to offer an informal setting that encourages collaboration as well as a place to accommodate presentations. Students also will enjoy access to faculty, entrepreneurs and others who can offer information and advice. That group will include Tom Osborn, a researcher with Proctor & Gamble who’s worked for decades to develop new products.

The innovation center will be designed to help students “jump start” their enterprises while they’re attending CMU so they can take their ventures to the next level when they graduate.

Here’s something else to think about. The mechanical engineering degree programs and innovation center won’t operate in isolation. Rather, engineering students likely will be among those spending a lot of time at the center in collaborating with business students and others on projects or working on their own ideas.

Any and all efforts at CMU to meet the needs of local businesses and to promote entrepreneurism and economic develop constitute good news we’re happy to report.