Dan Smith, Kent’s Economic Development Director, asked if he could share insights that he (and 8 other Kent dignitaries) picked up on a recent site visit to Purdue University about how technology transfer has been transformative for the West Lafayette economy. We’ve got our own version of a business incubator in the pipeline so here’s Dan’s guest blog post. Enjoy!
Tech Transfer in Action
Team Kent Visits West Lafayette, Purdue University
Dan Smith, Economic Development Director- Guest Blogger
At the spring Bowman Breakfast, Record Courier Publisher David Dix gave an impassioned call for town & gown relationships to be strengthened. City and University officials have accepted the challenge and began to explore options and projects that would strengthen our community, especially with regards to economic development, technology transfer and the creation of new jobs and tax revenues.
One such project that has been on the table for several years is the Business Technology Entrepreneur Center and Park (B-TEC). Kent has helped numerous small businesses get their start through the efforts of the Small Business Develop Center (SBDC) operated by the Kent Regional Business Alliance as well as several City incentive programs (revolving loan funds, tax abatements and our faÇade program) and support from Kent State University. A few of the businesses that have been started or assisted with consulting provided by the SBDC include: Alpha Micron, the Backeri, Leander’s Barbershop, Poly Display, Liquid Learning, Antifreeze, RocketCalc, Christian Edwards Beauty Salon, Avrow, Ailes Millwork, Link Connection, Brand Logo, Portage Medical, Box Card Gifts, and Mugzee’s Wings.
To build upon our previous successes, the concept of creating a discovery park anchored with a business technology entrepreneur development incubator on a 23 acre site is under development. In researching various incubator/tech transfer models, we learned of a similar, extremely successful, facility in West Layfette, Indiana at Purdue University. One of five in the nation, it is now considered to be the largest university-affiliated incubation program in the US at 259,000 SF.
The Purdue Research Park boasts the following statistics:
- 725 Acres, 52 separate buildings, 1.5 million SF under roof
- 151 companies, 57 incubator companies
- Over 3,000 employees at an average wage of $54,000
- Nearly 100 High Tech Firms and Entities
- $121 M of Invested Venture Capital
- Their third incubator is coming on-line and there is now a waiting list for space in the incubator.
Hearing of the Purdue Technology Park’s impressive achievements, we assembled “Team Kent” for a visit to research their facilities and best practices. The City/University team included: Mayor John Fender, Dr. Pat Book, KSU VP Regional Development; Kent City Councilman Robin Turner; College of Business Dean George Stevens; Jack Crews, CEO Kent Regional Business Alliance; Janet Newcomer- KSU Director of Institutional Advancement College of Business and Dan Smith, Kent Economic Development Director. A two day exploratory visit was completed on May 1.
We noted several contributing factors to the success of the Purdue Research/Discovery Park including : bold vision and dynamic leadership; strong public University and City engagement; partnerships based on trust, inclusion and transparency; integration of effort; external fund-raising- federal and private; city support through innovative economic development policy. Their efforts started modestly with one smaller incubation building… but quickly blossomed into an incredible center (725 acre park) for innovation. The center supports firms commercializing Purdue-patented technologies joined by entrepreneurial ventures interested in forming strong ties to Purdue- one of the requirements for tenancy within the incubator.
Our team’s take-aways from this visit were that we have all the basic elements of this success story. We have a large research university with areas of basic and applied research strength in high-tech areas including liquid crystal physics, biosciences, health sciences (multiple sclerosis, trauma), manufacturing and applied technology; we have a well developed technology transfer and research commercialization capability at the university and a track record of successful licensing of university spin-off technology. We also have an AACSB accredited College of Business with a Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation. In addition, entrepreneurs can utilize the Small Business Development Center/Kent Regional Business Alliance and university-based technical assistance. We have many community and City assets that are attractive to the knowledge worker.
We strongly believe strengthening our relationships and resolve will pay tremendous dividends in the very near future. While our Kent Atlantic and Great Western Technology Park is a proposal on a much more modest level than the Purdue venture, it is a great first-step with tremendous potential to capture technology and new industries are we transform Kent and take advantage of the emerging knowledge economy. We have submitted an application to participate in the Stat of Ohio Job Ready Site (JRS) program as well as several local foundations. If similar results to the Purdue facility can be achieved, the Atlantic and Great Western Discovery Park will serve as a great catalyst for innovation, new businesses, jobs, and tax base that will enhance the quality of life of Kent residents and the greater N.E. Ohio region.
For a great video clip on the Purdue Research Park…. click here.
Or Click Here to view a Powerpoint with lots more information on the Purdue Project.
Daniel D. Smith, Economic Development Director
City of Kent 215 East Summit Street Kent, OH 44240