Claremore Daily Progress

May 13, 2010

Standing Together

Zach Stoycoff
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE — Rogers State University's growing ties with its host city are garnering the attention of state education officials.

RSU has recognized its relationship with Claremore by awarding the city $1,000 through the Partnership Recognition Program, courtesy of a grant by the state regents for higher education. The program gives state universities funding each year to award a particularly valuable local business.

All but five of the 22 universities in the program this year selected a traditional business. RSU's selection of a city is unique.

“The city has been very cooperative with us for years,” said Ray Brown, RSU vice president for economic and community development. “This is to recognize the city for its efforts.”

Claremore's recreation center was made free to RSU students in 2007, and the Expo Center regularly hosts RSU events, including basketball games and graduation ceremonies. The city has also recently constructed a walkway from the university to the Expo Center and donated a generator to RSU's radio station in return for the right to broadcast emergency notices over RSU's airwaves.

This is the fifth year RSU has been awarded funding for the partnership program. Grand River Dam Authority was last year's partner.

Claremore city officials have the option of using the money to help pay an employee's tuition at RSU, hire an intern from the university, hire an RSU faculty member or buy supplies and materials to help its relationship with the university.

A city spokesperson said the money will likely be used for the latter.

It's the latest in a flurry of recent developments in the city-university relationship, which officials said is hardly one-sided.

“We think the university can help the City of Claremore,” said Cassie Woods, Claremore city spokesperson. “They bring more people into the city not just with students, but with people eating out, shopping here.”

She pointed to RSU basketball games, which draw fans from across the state to Claremore. Other effects take longer to see, she said, noting that workers with degrees who enter the Rogers County workforce add to community wealth and wellbeing.

 “All of these things are vital to a city whose sole source of revenue is sales tax,” Woods said.

In return, Claremore regularly assists RSU with a number of tasks, from police patrols at events to snow removal. Claremore Mayor Jim Cochran even volunteers as the play-by-play announcer at RSU basketball games, a job Interim City Manager Tim Miller said Cochran “takes very seriously.”

“Our partnership with the city is in a word, just awesome,” RSU President Larry Rice said. “We’re so entwined with the city. The university’s partnership with Claremore is essential for our continued growth.”

There is also an ongoing economic collaboration between RSU and community leaders. Dubbed “Making Place Matter,” it calls universities across the state to coordinate economic development with business and local government leaders. Cassie Woods, Claremore’s media spokesperson, said the partnership grant could go toward this collaboration.

“Many of the challenges we face in the community we cannot face alone. The city is a major partner in this,” Brown said. “What we do is we go to main street and find out what the community wants and how RSU can best meet those needs with the university's resources.”

A thriving economic climate makes for a better community, Brown said. That translates to more money for the university and more educational opportunities for students.

The cycle keeps moving.

“The opportunities to partner with the city have been increasing rapidly as the university has grown,” Brown said.

Combined enrollment at RSU's three campuses (Claremore, Bartlesville and Pryor) is up 8.9 percent this spring, to 4,045.

In the last five years, RSU's Claremore campus has added a new student center and nearly finished construction of new classroom building, which is set to open this summer. A new 300-bed apartment complex is also planned.

The university's economic impact in northeastern Oklahoma was $40.5 million in 2004, including more than 1,000 jobs, according to its most recent economic impact study.

That's the kind of impact city leaders want could not have imagined 10 years ago, when RSU was in the process of transitioning to a four-year institution and enrollment was below 2,500.

“”We’re very proud to be part of such a progressive organization like RSU that has grown so much over the last few years,” Miller said.

That includes “being able to show off the university” during events and conferences at its new buildings, he added. “”There are so many things we can and do mutually benefit from.”

Tulsa Community College and Northeastern State University were also given money through the state regent's Economic Development Grant for the Partnership Recognition Program.

NSU chose Walmart and TCC has partnered with Dick Corner Correctional Center.