Foundation announces $5 million gift to support Free Enterprise Center for entrepreneurs
The foundation also presents Henry W. Bloch with inaugural UMKC Foundation Award of Distinction at organization's first annual dinner
The UMKC Foundation is pleased to announce a $5 million pledge from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to support a new Free Enterprise Center on UMKC’s Volker Campus.
The $14.8 million product development hub — to be used by entrepreneurs, local industry, and high school and college students — is a shot in the arm for entrepreneurship and economic development efforts at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton announced the gift at the first annual dinner for the 4-year-old UMKC Foundation. At the Oct. 4 event, Morton also presented entrepreneur, civic leader and longtime UMKC patron Henry W. Bloch with the inaugural UMKC Foundation Award of Distinction.
“Henry and Marion Bloch wanted this to be a city where people, regardless of income or stature, have access to education, the visual and performing arts and health and social services,” Morton said. “So about a year ago, Henry celebrated his birthday by giving gifts to the rest of us. He established the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation to provide for the city he loves.”
The annual dinner also featured a recap of the foundation’s progress over the past year — a year that included a new record for the number of total donors and an almost 10 percent increase in the university’s endowment, from $235 million to $256 million. The campaign has now raised $173 million, 79 percent of the $250 million goal.
“We are all in awe when we see what has happened, when we look around the campus and realize the burst of money and energy and enthusiasm and construction — and forward-thinking improvements — that have taken place in these past few years,” said Betsey Solberg, chair of the UMKC Foundation. “Much of the credit for ensuring that the changes on this campus were just about perfect goes to Leo Morton, the man who is so passionate about the potential of UMKC that he runs a sprint and a marathon at the same time, ensuring that the vision we all share for this university is being accomplished.”
Announcing the gift from the Kauffman Foundation, Morton thanked the organization for its commitment to “reward the entrepreneurial spirit, the same spirit that UMKC wants to cultivate and keep alive.”
Morton said UMKC will seek matching funds from the state of Missouri to build the Free Enterprise Center, to be housed in a new building to be constructed at the site of a vacant structure at 215 Volker Boulevard.
A multi-disciplinary initiative, the center will provide a platform for invention, research and education with a wide range of partners, including the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, MRIGlobal and Metropolitan Community College.
The facility will assist entrepreneurs, educators, researchers and industry in the production of prototype devices, manufacturing processes and end products. It is intended to act as a catalyst for entrepreneurs, educators, mentors and collaborators for economic development through product design, innovative education and state-of-the-art research.
The new building will provide the critically needed space to accommodate the rapid growth of two of UMKC’s fastest-growing academic units: the School of Computing and Engineering and the Henry W. Bloch School of Management. The two schools are already collaborating on new initiatives that link technology and management in new and innovative ways.
The Free Enterprise Center will include laboratory space, rapid prototyping equipment, educational/collaborative space and business/technology transfer advisors who will serve the students, faculty and researchers from both schools, as well as local industries, entrepreneurs, artists and K-12 students.
The KC STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Alliance within the School of Computing and Engineering is reaching more than 13,000 middle and high school students in the Kansas City region. This center would provide the KC STEM Alliance space to work with high school students on projects that involve robotics, manufacturing, material science and engineering design.
UMKC Enactus students, who compete in entrepreneurial challenges, will work with these students on the entrepreneurial and business aspects of technology and manufactured products and projects.
The facility also will be used as a laboratory, incubator and prototyping center for all students within the School of Computing and Engineering and all entrepreneurship students within the Bloch School of Management.