May 28, 2009

Curt Jones joins research park board

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois Research Park Board has a new member and a newly elected slate of officers.

The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees recently appointed Curt Jones, founder and president of Dippin’ Dots and a University alumnus, as a community director on the board that oversees the economic development park at SIUC. Jones grew up on a farm near Grand Chain and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at SIUC in 1981 followed by a master’s in microbiology in 1986.

The following year, while researching large-scale commercial freezing techniques involving bacteria and enzymes, Jones discovered the concept that was to become Dippin’ Dots ice cream. The use of liquid nitrogen for quick freezing allows creation of the unique popular ice cream product. You’ll now find Dippin’ Dots throughout the country and around the world. The company’s first international manufacturing plant, in South Korea, opened in October 2002.

Dippin’ Dots earned a spot on Inc. Magazine’s “Inc. 500” list of the top 500 rapid growth businesses in 1996 and 1997. Jones is a Distinguished Alumni of SIUC, a board member for the International Ice Cream Association, a lifetime member of the Entrepreneur of the Year Society and winner of various other awards. He and wife Kay along with daughter Tracey live in Nashville, Tenn. The family’s Dippin’ Dots Foundation is a charitable organization providing educational opportunities and working to enhance Southern Illinois.

Mary Kay Moore, a multiple alumna of the University and formerly the longtime chief executive officer and co-owner of the Center for Comprehensive Services, is chairperson of the research park board. Other officers are: Curtis Baird, president of NEON Internet and vice president of sales and marketing for School Center, vice chairman; Mike Kearney, economic development director of Ameren Service Corp., secretary; and John Dosier, president of the First Southern Bank, treasurer.

The Southern Illinois Research Park (SIRP) board also includes: Glenn Poshard, president of SIU; Samuel Goldman, SIUC chancellor; Don Rice, provost and vice chancellor at SIUC; John Koropchak, vice chancellor for research and dean of the graduate school at SIUC; Trace Brown, principal of HBA Development; Rex Budde, CEO of Southern Illinois Healthcare; and Allen Gill, Carbondale city manager.

“I’m really excited about the slate of community and University directors,” Moore said. “We have a great mix of educated, enthusiastic, dedicated board members.”

Kyle Harfst is the research park’s executive director. The park actually features two facilities: the Small Business Incubator and the SIUC Office of Economic and Regional Development within the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center on Pleasant Hill Road, and One Enterprise Place. The economic development center features a computer lab, conference rooms, an atrium and rental space for new and expanding businesses. There are currently about a dozen tenants. One Enterprise Place, added in 2006, is fully occupied with six tenants.

“Continued growth of the Research Park presents economic development opportunities within the University and the region,” Harfst said. “At present, there are three park tenants with companies based on research or technologies discovered at SIUC.”

Moore said it’s going to be an important year for the research park, as plans are moving forward for construction of a new interior road that will connect the research park to the main SIUC campus via Saluki Drive. The University received $1 million in federal highway funds for the road project and Moore said it will mesh nicely with the development of Saluki Way.

“This will be a gateway to further development,” Moore said. “That’s what we really need to do. We have to grow the research park. Our ultimate goal is to get more businesses in there.”