Summit develops ideas for high-tech center

Summit develops ideas for high-tech center

By GENE VERNACCHIO, Courier-Post Staff

GLASSBORO--The recipe for making Rowan University's planned South Jersey High-Technology Center a success in transforming the region's future economy includes finding strong leaders, mentors and learning from mistakes made along the way.

Those were some of the recommendations aired during the South Jersey High-Tech Summit II here Friday. Sponsored by the Courier-Post, the Southern New Jersey Development Council and Rowan, the four-hour event gathered technology experts; business and educational leaders; and government officials for an open exchange of ideas and suggestions for the center.

The summit attracted more than 100 people interested in the planned center, which could be built within 2? to 3 years on a tract in Mantua.

The Rev. Joseph Messina, a member of the Camden County Workforce Investment Board and Catholic Charities, encouraged university officials to create a successful center that will bring much-needed, high-paying jobs.

"Your work is holy," Messina said. "Get people jobs from every walk of life. God's people really need that in these horrible days we've experienced."

SaraLee Pindar, director of the New Jersey Technology Council, told administrators to provide sufficient flex space in the center for emerging technology companies, as well as wet labs and "clean rooms."

Pindar said two high-tech firms seeking to relocate in the state are searching for just such facilities, and she thinks that could be a trend.

Furthermore, Pindar suggested that the technology center administrators offer reduced fees for legal and outreach services as well as for recruiting, planning and marketing services. She also stressed the center should be strongly marketed and space reserved for biopharmaceutical research.

Ed DuCoin, chief executive officer of Liberty Bell Financial in Cherry Hill, said he represented entrepreneurs and urged officials to find and hire strong leadership in the center first and foremost.

"Great leaders make great things happen," DuCoin said. " Without great leaders, the tech center will not be a success.

"... From my perspective, the focus is too much on the product," DuCoin added. "In my experience, one person can make a difference, but it's the team that makes the venture a success."

Lou Bucelli, a representative of the University City Science Center, a nonprofit consulting firm working with Rowan on developing a strategic plan for the center, implored administrators not to dwell on inevitable failures, but rather to learn from their mistakes.

"Failure is almost a part of a legacy in developing a career or business," said DuCoin, agreeing with Bucelli's point. "While I've had some great success in the past, I've also had failures. I'll tell you I've learned more from my failures and grown from that than I ever did from my successes."

John Hasse, a Rowan geography professor, said he believes success of the center hinges heavily on the quality of life for employees in South Jersey.

"If the proposed technology center isn't well-planned in its physical design, as well as its connections to the local community, then it will likely contribute to the haphazard sprawl that already is choking much of the New Jersey landscape," Hasse said.

Furthermore, he requested good alternative transportation links to the center.

"High-tech people like myself like to bicycle, and there' s a great potential for a pedestrian-bicycle greenway," he said. "There's also an old, abandoned rail bed that goes to Mullica Hill that could be a rails-to-trails conversion."

Assemblyman Jack Conners, D-Burlington, pressed trustees and administrators to pay close attention to small details and develop a sound business plan in order to prosper.

Stephen Sweeney, Gloucester County's freeholder- director, said he views the planned center as a means to attract more jobs and higher-paying positions to the county. He also pledged the county's support and assistance.

"We will do what we need to do to make this successful," Sweeney said. "... We're (Gloucester County) too dependent on the industry we have right now. We have light industry and petrochemical, but we need to get into the industries of the 21st century."

In June, the state Economic Development Authority selected Rowan over 14 other applicants 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.

Initially the school will 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 products they have created, as well as give Rowan faculty and students the space to conduct more federal- and state-funded research projects.

Additional Details:

Date Published: Saturday, October 6, 2001 - 01:00
Source URL: Courier-Post