By Jessica Beym
From the second-floor windows of the Innovation Center at the South Jersey Technology Park, rows of peach trees are visible on hundreds of acres of farmland below.
While the rural history of the township is still evident, the future of the region as a hub for technology, academia and entrepreneurship is starting to take root.
A year and a half after Rowan University officials broke ground on the first building to be constructed on the sprawling 580-acre West Campus, the $15 million Samuel H. Jones Innovation Center is steadily progressing toward a March 2008 opening.
The shell of the 45,000-square-foot building, located off U.S. Route 322 near the Route 55 interchange, is expected to be complete in October.
Once the first floor is outfitted with the necessary furnishings a $3.5 million cost to the university the space will be ready for students and professionals who will take part in university-sponsored research and the university's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Meanwhile, South Jersey Technology Park CEO Thomas Drury said their team of marketing professionals is targeting technology-based businesses throughout the region, specifically in the "Three M's" region Moorestown, Mount Laurel and Marlton.
The goal of the tech park, officials said, is to provide businesses and entrepreneurs an opportunity to grow by leveraging the assets of the university's students, professors and resources.
Both the students, the businesses and the region will ultimately benefit from it, Drury said.
The master plan of the 188-acre tech park includes 25 buildings, some of which can be built to suit, and 1.5 million square feet of space.
"We're actively pursuing tenants for the second floor," Drury said. "The plan is to attract technology companies, like life sciences or IT."
Four technology companies have already expressed interest in renting laboratory or research and development space in the Innovation Center, according to John Sarkisian, of the real estate firm CB Richard Ellis.
They include Wheaton Industries of Millville, a long-standing manufacturer of glassware and ceramics, and Omega Engineering of Bridgeport, a manufacturer of measurement and temperature-control products that has already participated in research clinics at Rowan.
American Medical Saliva Testing, a company that partnered on projects with the University of Arkansas, is interested in leasing about 15,000 square feet at the Tech Park, Sarkisian said.
Another possible tenant is the federal Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration. The agency is looking for about 25,000 square feet of office and laboratory space to test airport security systems, Sarkisian said.
No contracts have been signed yet, officials said. To reach out to all technology-based businesses in the region, the Tech Park is receiving help from the Gloucester County Department of Economic Development.
There are about 75 such businesses in the county. On Oct. 18, county and university officials will hold a day-long event for these businesses to demonstrate how the university's capabilities in business, marketing, and engineering can benefit companies who partner with the university's tech park.
"The companies that opt to invest in the Tech Park is where we're going to invest most of our time," Drury said.
Gloucester County Economic Development Director Lisa Morina said the county hopes to focus on technology and researched-based clientele.
"It's one area where we're probably not as strong as other areas of the country," Morina said. "Your wish is, you get a company that comes into the Tech Park as a one- or two-person operation, and they outgrow the space and move into another building in the Tech Park or somewhere else in the county."
Once the tenants are secured, which could happen as soon as July 2008, the revenue generated from their leases will be used as seed money to begin construction of the second building, Drury said.
"What we anticipate happening is, we get the first building up, then we get the second," Drury said. "And soon the area becomes known for technology."
By Jessica Beym email@example.com From the second-floor windows of the Innovation Center at the South Jersey Technology Park, rows of peach trees are visible on hundreds of acres of farmland belo