SOUTH BEND -- The relationship between the University of Notre Dame and the city of South Bend is the best it has ever been, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said. The next step is finding ways to build on the momentum, he said.

Buttigieg and Alex Coccia, the Notre Dame student body president, were the featured speakers Thursday during a "Town and Gown" forum on campus sponsored by Siegfried Hall, a men's residential hall.

That relationship is particularly important, the mayor said, because South Bend is just now finally starting to recover fully from the closure of the Studebaker plant and being a company town.

"The bottom line is we have to have a more diversified and a smarter economy. It does not mean that we're done with manufacturing, not by any stretch," Buttigieg said. "What it means is that the manufacturing we're going to do is generally going to happen in smaller businesses; it'll be in the hundreds not the tens of thousands.

"That's OK if we have enough of them. They're going to be more intensive in intellectual property or have other reasons to be distinctive."

Notre Dame is a key component driving the city's new economy, Buttigieg said.

"The reason the universities are so important is that they supply so much intellectual property. A university like Notre Dame has made the commercialization of research a priority, something they're going to work on," he said. "South Bend and the economy around us stands to benefit hugely from that. We have to be wise about preparing for it. We have to make sure our city is able to get some power out of that economic engine."

Coccia said there is still a gap between the community and the student population despite the relative proximity of the campus to the community. It's a gap he too would like to see bridged, he said.

"One thing Mayor Pete talked about was the misperception about what the relationship is and that still certainly exists within the Notre Dame student community," Coccia said. "One thing this event was so important about was showing that divide shouldn't be there.

"There are obviously logistical obstacles that are going to come up but ultimately the spirit is there of willingness to engage and partner with each other. Part of it is breaking down that misconception. Any event like this is extremely important to that."

Staff writer Bob Blake:
rblake@sbtinfo.com
574-235-6234