Published: Jul 12, 2007 1:00:00 AM
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Source: Opelika-Auburn News
The Auburn Research Park has its first tenant.
Although the identity of the company is being kept under wraps for now, the company will break ground in October, Auburn University President Dr. Ed Richardson said, adding that it is a Fortune 100 company that conducts aerospace engineering research.
And by the time its employees move in next fall, Richardson said, the research park itself will be growing exponentially - he said he expects the companies that are part of the 154-acre site off South College Street to change the landscape of economic development and research in Auburn and around Alabama.
For AU itself, the research park will provide a location for the practical application of research already being done on campus. Richardson said everything from exotic diseases to bioenergy can be applied from the classroom to technical companies housed at the park.
Richardson said he expects the park to generate countless jobs over the next decade, developing an economic boom for the City of Auburn and the state.
The idea for a research park started two years ago to promote the development of technology and to attract top-notch professors and graduate students, he said. The city contributed $5 million to the joint venture, which was used to create its infrastructure, and Gov. Bob Riley helped secure $10 million from the state to construct the first building.
The aerospace engineering research company will take up about a third of the first building. Richardson said there is interest from two more companies in fill in the rest of the approximately 50,000-square-foot structure.
Before the first building is finished and occupied, Richardson said construction of the second building will have begun. Money generated from the lease payments in the first building will be used to pay for construction of the second. Eventually, he said, the project will be self-supporting.
The benefits the endeavor has will have a ripple-effect throughout the state, starting in Auburn, he said, adding that the park will be a "major recruitment tool" for the various colleges at AU.
For instance, he said, a great opportunity exists for the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. Not only will the new Shelby Center for Engineering Technology, which will be complete in the next few years, provide a state-of-the-art facility for professors and students, but the relationship with the research park will be a selling point as well, he said.
The park will also provide jobs and tax revenue and enhance property values for area residents, Richardson said, adding that he expects the benefits to spread throughout Alabama as Auburn partners with other universities, including a deal with the AU College of Engineering and the University of Alabama-Birmingham Medical School in developing advanced technologies for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the detection of diseases.
Such a venture will not only benefit Alabama, but mankind as a whole, Richardson said.