KTA Staff provide monthly updates about firms we’re assisting and current economic trends. For more information about our program, contact us.
In September of 2009 the School of Economics received $1.8 million from a U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to create an economic development project. This project, the Knowledge Transfer Alliance (KTA) is an initiative to help Maine businesses and communities succeed by connecting them to the knowledge and tools they need to recover from economic and natural disasters. The KTA project would not be possible without its University of Maine collaborators, the Maine Business School, the College of Engineering, Cooperative Extension, and others. In addition KTA has a private legal partner/consultant company (Eaton Peabody, PA)
At the core of the program, KTA assembles teams of faculty, staff, and students to visit businesses to help determine what action needs to take place to assist the business. The project is education oriented. For example, while we may help the business with their accounting, the focus is to train the business to do their own taxes, or, to get their taxes ready to take to a specialist. KTA is not designed to offer on-going long-term assistance.
KTA teams offer knowledge and skills in such areas as decision analysis, financial accountability and record keeping, marketing and branding, e-commerce, streamlining production channels, and increasing manufacturing efficiencies. In its 18 months, KTA has worked directly with over 125 businesses in manufacturing, construction, technology, agriculture, food and lodging, energy, transportation and storage, waste management, retail, and wholesalers.
KTA employs graduate and undergraduate students primarily from the School of Economics and the Maine Business School, giving them real-world training in business assistance, research, reporting, and outreach activities. Each project engagement is assigned at least one faculty leader, based on the needs of the business, and a lead graduate assistant. The lead graduate assistant works closely with faculty advisors to ensure the delivery of high quality work to the client. School of Economics undergraduates typically assist the graduate students with research or related tasks, gaining applied experience in their field. The graduate students gain hands-on experience in the business world by working with KTA clients, positioning them to apply their academic work in their career upon graduation. Some student comments regarding KTA follow:
Undergraduate and graduate students out in front of Stevens Hall.
“Being involved with KTA was a major reason I stayed at UMaine School of Economics for graduate school (and not just because of the assistantship!) Being able to help local Maine business while getting hands-on experience is an unmatched opportunity. I am able to apply skills I have learned in the classroom to help clients either stay in business or grow and expand. Through speaking with friends at other graduate programs, and comparing our experiences, mine has been much more interactive and involved, while theirs has focused mostly around lectures and homework. I’m positive being involved with this program will give me a leg up in the job market since most college students do not have such a breadth of experience working with a variety of clients and small business.” (School of Economics graduate student)
“My experience working as an undergraduate student with the Knowledge Transfer Alliance has been extremely beneficial for my education at the University of Maine. I have been able to not only apply knowledge gained from my studies directly in the field, but I have also gained great insights and first-hand experience. By applying this learning process to real life problems for countless Maine businesses, it is reassuring to know that improvements can be made and communities can begin to prosper through economic development.” (School of Economics undergraduate student)
“Working with KTA has been an amazing experience for me. I have not only developed lots of skills as a business advisor in marketing and strategy but also have had the opportunity to meet and to help great people around Maine. I can certainly say that in this year and a half, I have learned about different markets, businesses and perspectives. I have been able to help business to do a better job and at the same time work with Maine organizations in understanding the local business environment and looking for opportunities.” (School of Economics graduate student)
To date, the program’s engagements with businesses will have helped generate over $5 million in additional revenue for clients, and will have resulted in at least 250 new jobs at all levels within their businesses. Additionally, the State of New Hampshire is very interested in the KTA model and has made several visits to Orono to study the program and its operations.
An example of a KTA client is Wallace Brothers Woodcrafters, a manufacturer of high-end wooden fishing nets. KTA provided a cost analysis and accounting and energy efficiency audits.
KTA analyzed production methods and a university engineer greatly improved the company’s production speed and ergonomic safety by recommending that certain machines be moved and processes altered. Students designed a new logo and created a marketing campaign. In 18 months Wallace Brothers increased volume from producing 3,000 nets to approximately 9,000 nets by year’s end (2010), and the firm expects sales to increase by another 60% for year 2011.
“… It more or less boils down to getting these college people a chance to step up and help these businesses, whether it’s marketing or whatever it is. This winter is when [KTA] will begin marketing us very hard to go out west. We have sent nets to Canada and England. It’s just what we needed. There’s no doubt we will do 10,000 a year, easily. It feels great. KTA opened our minds and helped us to think like businessmen.” (Don Wallace, Co-Founder Wallace Brothers Woodcrafters, LLC)