Rowan high-tech center will affect nearby towns

Rowan high-tech center will affect nearby towns

By GENE VERNACCHIO, Courier-Post Staff

Local leaders are pondering how Rowan's planned South Jersey High-Technology Center will reshape their communities even as entrepreneurs and business leaders prepare to help shape the center itself.

Residents and business leaders will meet here Friday for South Jersey High-Tech Summit II, co-sponsored by the Courier-Post, Rowan and the Southern New Jersey Development Council.

University officials are looking for ideas and concepts in planning for its $15 million-$20 million center, which is expected to be completed in 2004.

In June, the state Economic Development Authority selected Rowan for a $6 million grant to create a South Jersey High- Technology Center.

The school plans to build on 30 to 50 acres at routes 322 and 55 in Mantua.

But the center could lead to an influx of new homes and create dozens of jobs, officials said.

"I think this center will have a big impact ... Rowan will become the focal point for South Jersey," said Tim Behr, executive director of the Glassboro Economic Development Corp. "I think this center will become a magnet for companies to realize that technical assistance available from the tech center will help them to grow and expand."

He said the center will help start-up firms crystalize their ideas and help established businesses get to the " next level."

"I'm just really optimistic," Behr said. "In our wildest dreams, I guess we're looking at the Research Triangle down in North Carolina. And if we can have just a percentage of the success they've had, we're well on our way. I just have unbridled optimism about this."

Glassboro Mayor Alvin Shpeen said he believes the planned high-tech center will benefit the borough's business base, with the center's employees patronizing the town's stores and restaurants.

Mantua's Mayor Tim Chell foresees the center bringing jobs and business to his township.

But even if the high-tech center flourishes over the next few decades, Chell said Mantua won't likely change radically as a result.

He said the township's master plan calls for slow, steady growth.

"As far as housing goes, we're mostly built out and most of the land we do have left is zoned for one home per three acres. We don't anticipate a lot of housing," Chell said.

But Chell can also envision an industrial corridor set up along a portion of Mantua Boulevard that already houses industrial sites such as Delaware Valley Wholesale Florist, National Paintball Supply and Electric Mobility, as well as along a stretch of Woodbury-Glassboro Road.

Similarly, Harrison Mayor Charles Visalli is hoping the center will mean more jobs and businesses for his township, but not necessarily more homes.

"A number of new people will potentially be moving here and we're an attractive area," Visalli said. But ideally, he said he'd like to direct any new industrial or retail outgrowth from the center to a nearby tract at the intersection of routes 322 and 55.

"There will be a need for support facilities, like hotels and that sort of thing," Visalli said.

Behr said he estimates the first tangible dividends from the center will likely be realized in two to five years.

"We've already had people starting to inquire about us," Behr said. "The visionary people can see that in two years that technology center will be done and operational and some people are already positioning themselves. That's to everyone's benefit."

Initially, Rowan plans to construct a single building of about 25,000 square feet.

Ultimately, the school envisions a technology park of four buildings totaling up to 560,000 square feet.

The center will provide a place for companies to pursue the commercialization of their products. It will also give Rowan faculty and students the space to conduct more federal- and state-funded research projects.

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Date Published: Friday, October 5, 2001 - 16:15
Source URL: Courier-Post