CORVALLIS - Oregon State University is seeking to develop a research park near the southern end of campus that would bring technology-oriented companies to Corvallis and create new companies spun off from the university's own research expertise.
The university will soon issue a request for proposals to develop a 52-acre parcel of land just south of Highway 20 in Corvallis off Brooklane Drive. Rich Holdren, OSU's vice provost for research, said he hopes the RFP process will be completed by the end of 2004.
"The state of Oregon has challenged us as a university to provide leadership in economic development," Holdren said. "The mid-valley needs to diversify its economy. We have the opportunity to attract and create companies that build off or align with the strengths of OSU and Hewlett Packard - and to keep these new technologies and jobs at home.
"This is an idea," he said, "that is long overdue."
Holdren said the university would like the research park to have as many as three anchor buildings that could include multiple clients occupying lease space from 200 to 20,000 square feet. These buildings also would contain office and laboratory space, and open areas.
Additionally, the park would have a number of lots to attract new businesses, which could build free-standing research and development facilities to their specifications.
The university also hopes that by the time the park is completed, some of the first graduates of the new Austin Entrepreneurship Program will be ready to spin off their own companies and want to stay in Corvallis within easy range of the campus's resources.
Technology will be a focus of the park, Holdren said.
"When our School of Electrical and Computer Engineering developed one of the top programs in the United States on mixed signal processing, we were approached by about half a dozen different firms looking to relocate in Corvallis because of the expertise," Holdren said. "Although the economic downtown prevented these companies from pursuing these opportunities, with the upswing in the economy we may once again be able to energize these relationships."
Other possibilities, he said, could include companies related to software design, miniaturized heating and cooling pumps and veterinary medicine diagnostic tools.
"There also are opportunities in bioscience and health, pharmaceuticals, and other fields," Holdren said. "One of the jobs for the developer will be to create a list of viable clients that have an interest in such a partnership."
Holdren said the RFP calls for a developer to begin with one anchor building that would have two or three major tenants. OSU, he added, would have a presence in that building. The multi-client building would be 40,000 to 85,000 square feet with multiple uses, including labs, office space and design space.
Brian Thorsness, director of contracts at OSU, said the successful development bid must take seriously the issue of sustainability.
"We want these to be 'green' buildings as much as possible," Thorsness said. "The park will be environmentally friendly and sustainable. The site also includes about 13 acres of land that are either designated wetlands, or within the 100-year flood plain, so the design is really a critical component."
Holdren said the cost of the project would be assumed by a developer and that the university was willing to grant leases of 25 to 50 years to companies that would locate in the park.
OSU has spent the past several months fine-tuning a plan to launch a research park, Holdren said. A group of university faculty and staff is scheduled to meet with the Association of University Research Parks to determine whether creating such a site would encourage businesses to locate in Corvallis.
The answer, he predicts, will be an emphatic yes.
"We have a lot to offer," Holdren said. "We are the largest research enterprise, by far, in the Oregon University System, and we have strengths in many areas. The university does a lot of collaborative research, cutting across many disciplines and engaging a variety of partners - from Hewlett Packard, to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, to numerous state and federal agencies, other organizations and even individuals."
Holdren said the university can also point to previous successful public-private partnerships, such as the move of SIGA Pharmaceuticals to Corvallis to capitalize on the biomedical research of Dennis Hruby, an OSU microbiologist.
"One of our next steps will be to work with our own faculty," Holdren said. "We have some marvelously talented individuals who may not recognize the potential of their own work in terms of developing intellectual property."
Other next steps include working further with the City of Corvallis on how such a park fits into the comprehensive plan, and continuing to meet with neighborhood associations and other residents of the area. The concept of a park already has been broached at several public meetings.
OSU officials say the earliest date the university could open the first building of a research park would be in July of 2006, Holdren said.
"We would like to get moving on the project as soon as possible and it all starts with the developer," he said. "We hope to get a contract signed as early as possible next year and do what we need to do to get things done."