HIGH POINT, N.C. -- A generation ago, it was the research and development done by private business that drove the economies of most of America’s larger cities.
But over the last 25 years or so, much of that work has been passed to universities. So communities lucky enough to have one – or several, as does the Triad – are finding those schools are key to their vibrancy, especially when the universities embrace the role.
“High Point University has been at this new rebirth for a dozen years,” says HPU President Nido Qubein. “It's taken us the first seven or eight years really to get our own act together - build the necessary infrastructure, attract enough students, have scale, if you will. But, today, we have tremendous capacity and we intend to use this capacity for the good of the community and the good of the Triad.”
High Point lived for years off the growth of the furniture industry, until most of those jobs were lost to either automation or overseas competition.
What remained, though, were many of the corporate headquarters and the Furniture Market convention, which brings tens of thousands of people to High Point twice each year.
“High Point did a marvelous job in strengthening its base against competition from Las Vegas and other places to stay alive and well. To that extent, High Point gets an A-plus,” notes Qubein. “In the process, though, something happens. And what happens is that your downtown becomes, principally, a home furnishings showroom area. You lose the retail. In part, because we had malls and other things that attracted people away. And now we're saying, ‘Can we, again, regroup and make downtown High Point an attractive place for some retail - it's not intended to be a major hub for retail but for some retail and for some living quarters for people who enjoy that kind of living environment.’”
Qubein is confident High Point can, because of the particular group of leaders it currently has.
“You have a city council and city management that are willing to make things happen. You have a strong chamber of commerce,” he says. And Qubein is adding the power of HPU to the mix, where it is appropriate.
“Anything that's worthwhile is not going to be easy to do. It's going to take a sense of commitment and tenacity and grit and faith and courage to make it happen. That's not really the question,” he says. “The question is, do we have the faith to do it? Do we have the desire to do it? Once that is there, then you amass the resources necessary.”
Qubein has assisted there too, by helping line up $100 million in private donations and investment to the downtown area to make it, as he likes to say about the university he runs, “extraordinary.”
See more of Dr. Qubein’s vision in this edition of the Buckley Report.