Nashville has Vanderbilt. Atlanta has Emory. Chicago has Northwestern and the University of Chicago. It’s not a coincidence that great cities have world-class universities. Universities provide innovative ideas for business and public policy and the vital talent and energy cities need to thrive.

But those benefits can only be maximized when there is a close connection and coordination between city and university leadership. For too long, UALR has not been recognized as the major asset to the city that it is. We have the only true urban university in the state at a time when many young people crave an urban lifestyle. Yet UALR isn’t living up to its great potential. It should be a powerful magnet for attracting young talent to our city, and a steady supplier of workers and entrepreneurs we need to grow and attract businesses of all sizes.

I also believe that we need to flip the script on the negativity surrounding UALR and fully commit to a university plan that will make the surrounding neighborhoods more walkable, appealing, and safer. Put simply, the city needs to be a better partner to ensure UALR’s success – it’s an investment that will repay itself in ways we can’t even begin to imagine yet.

We also need to work harder to assist UAMS. UAMS is such a huge driver of our economy and a critical provider of health care services. At a time when there has been so much growth in health care in central Arkansas, we need to make sure we are developing close relationships and strong partnerships with UAMS to maximize their impact on the city and to ensure its future sustainability.