The new co-chairman of the Capital Region Economic Development Council is going to learn as he goes.
That shouldn’t be a problem for Robert Jones, who has been an educator his whole professional life and took over at the start of this year as president of the University at Albany. He takes over on the council for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson, who stepped down from the post at the end of 2012.
Earlier this month, Jones was scheduled to meet with the council’s other co-chairman, Albany Medical Center President and CEO James Barba, to learn about the region’s assets and the council’s past vision.
Barba, who became a co-chairman in October when SEFCU President Michael Castellana stepped down, said in a statement at the end of January, when Jones was appointed, that he expected his new co-chairman to serve the eight-county region well. Barba noted the “thoughtful and intelligent approach” and “fresh view” of his new colleague.
Jones, who is the 19th president of UAlbany, has more than three decades of higher education experience in Minnesota, most recently serving as senior vice president of academic administration at the University of Minnesota system. In this role, he had broad oversight over the university. Before that, he served more than 15 years in different leadership roles at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
In Minnesota, Jones said some of his tasks included leveraging college assets, like land, overseeing community economic development efforts, where he worked with local businesses and politicians, developing youth entrepreneur programs and helping to provide technical assistance to minority- and female-owned businesses.
Before leaving the state, one of his projects involved working with the mayor of Minneapolis to find economic opportunities. “Not trying to attract big mega companies ...” Jones said, “but small businesses with emerging and cutting-edge technologies.
He said he is excited about working on the council, which he described as an innovative approach that builds on existing resources to advance the region’s economic future.
Jones added that he sees UAlbany playing a critical role with the council, noting that the institution is the second largest enterprise in the Capital Region. The college has more than 17,000 students and offers a variety of areas of studies.
To read all the stories from the 2013 Outlook special report, click here.