May 06, 2005

SIUC breaks ground for So. Ill. Research Park

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The economic engine that drives Southern Illinois is adding some serious horsepower.

Federal, state and local dignitaries joined Southern Illinois University Carbondale officials today (May 6) to break ground for a nearly 20,000-square-foot multi-tenant building in the Southern Illinois Research Park. The park is on the south side of the campus, near the intersection of U.S. Highway 51 and Pleasant Hill Road.

The one-story, $2.8 million structure will go up near the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center, the anchor of the research park. Dunn-Richmond houses a variety of programs, including the Small Business Incubator, Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center, Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center, SouthernTECH and the Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development.

Tenants of the new facility will include graduates of the Small Business Incubator program and new and expanding knowledge-based companies. The building will offer office and testing space and will accommodate between 12 and 15 firms.

Construction will take between nine and 15 months. Grants from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Housing and Urban Development totaling $312,000 will help offset costs. Rents from future tenants will later repay the University for its investment.

Zeller Construction of Marion is the general contractor.

When fully developed, the park will house about 250,000 square feet of buildings. SIUC figures project as many as 75 new businesses might one day call the 42-acre park home, employing up to 1,200 people and generating $50 million in new payroll.

"The Southern Illinois Research Park reflects our Southern@150 commitment to continue to be a leader in the region's economic development," Chancellor Walter V. Wendler said. "SIUC plays a major role in business development throughout Southern Illinois. This facility, and others that we hope will follow in this park, will further enhance our region's economy by offering top-notch facilities to help attract high-tech, research and knowledge-based enterprises."

He also paid tribute to state legislators, state agency officials and members of the congressional delegation for their support of the project. In particular, Wendler noted the $860,000 in federal grants and appropriations shepherded by U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, since the unveiling of formal plans for the research park five years ago.

"We very much appreciate Congressman Costello's continuing support for the University and for the research park," Wendler said. "We are fortunate to have such a persuasive advocate on Capital Hill."

Costello, who participated in today's ceremony, said the research park will bring economic benefits to the region for years to come.

"The success of small business development at Dunn-Richmond is evident in the need to expand its operation," he said. "Developing technologies and the business operations to commercialize them are defining aspects of the economy of the 21st Century, and we are seeing the economic benefits for the local community and the nation at Dunn-Richmond. This is a tremendous asset for SIUC and I will continue to support it."

Raymond C. Lenzi, associate vice chancellor for economic and regional development and executive director of the research park, said the multi-tenant facility represents the economy of the future.

"Most of the things we now take for granted, including cars, planes, cell phones, computers and the Internet, did not exist in 1900," he said. "Similarly, the technology, jobs, work force and businesses for this century, for our children and their children, must and will be created by us if America is to maintain its competitive advantage and prosperity."

He predicted that SIUC and the research park "will together play an historic role in creating these technologies, educating this work force and creating these businesses and jobs for the 21st century."

Lenzi noted that the enterprises in the Dunn-Richmond center represent 170 employees and a $7.5 million annual payroll.

"With our array of businesses and outreach programs, we are packaging tens of millions of dollars in investments annually working with industries as diverse as grape and wine, boat and auto parts manufacturers, retirement/assisted living and tourism," he said. "This impact will grow as we go from incubator to research park."

Also participating in today's groundbreaking were Glenn Poshard, chair of the SIU Board of Trustees; state Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville; Larry Woolard, deputy director, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity; Joe Kesler, chair, Southern Illinois Research Park Board; John A. Koropchak, SIUC's vice chancellor for research and graduate dean; and Carbondale Mayor Brad Cole.

Development of the research park and enhancing economic development in the region are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.