An Innovative Idea

img-1Taylor Corporation recently unveiled a new logo. It’s on the signage at the company’s North Mankato headquarters and positioned at the top of the company’s website as well.

That design was conceived of by Khurram Mohammad ’15, one of more than a dozen Minnesota State Mankato students to serve as “innovation architects” at Taylor Corporation’s Innovation Center.

The Innovation Center was the brainchild of Deb Taylor, now the CEO of Taylor Corporation. It was her dream to create a
space that would foster the kind of innovation necessary for Taylor Corporation and its subsidiaries to thrive while providing real-world experiences to students from Minnesota State Mankato and other universities.

That resulting partnership between the College of Business and Taylor Corporation was so successful that it was honored by Greater Mankato Growth last fall with the Brian Fazio Business Education Partnership Award—a “tremendous honor,” according to Taylor’s Senior Vice President, Online Marketing and Innovation, Glenn Bottomly, Ph.D.

Bottomly points to projects that have been tackled by students since the Innovation Center opened in August 2013 as examples of the partnership’s success. Besides the new logo, innovation architects have designed and launched a new website for Garvey, a Taylor subsidiary, and conducted full-blown empirical research projects, including a recent survey of 300 customers for a  Taylor company. More projects are coming in all the time, Bottomly reports.

Each of those projects demonstrates benefits to each of the stakeholders: Taylor Corporation and its subsidiaries benefit from the energy and enthusiasm students bring to projects completed in the Center. Minnesota State Mankato and other universities benefit from the opportunity to promote the partnership to current and prospective students. And students benefit from the real-world experience they have at the Innovation Center.

“It’s the kind of outstanding learning experience that makes them more prepared for the workforce,” Bottomly explains. “And if they choose to turn that experience into pursuing a career at Taylor, then it is better for us, too. Then we close the circle.”Innovation Architects at the Innovation Center take a break to practice yoga.

Megan Chilman, the first Innovation Architect two years ago, is now the fulltime coordinator of the Innovation Center and continues to work with Luke Howk, the internship and external parternership coordinator for the College of Business, to find
and place interns. Four other former interns have also accepted full-time positions within Taylor or one of its subsidiaries. “At Taylor, we strive to be an employer of choice,” Bottomly says. “It’s exciting to see recent college graduates choosing to start their careers with us.”

Bottomly is excited to see the Innovation Center continue to grow and thrive. He looks forward to the day when more  “corporate mentors” can be involved in coaching the students, and to creating more connections and opportunities for students as well. But for now, he’s plenty busy feeding projects to the Innovation Architects.

“Success breeds success,” he says. “So our internal Taylor customers tend to come back to us.”  —Sara Gilbert Frederick