Summit to seek ideas for Rowan center

Summit to seek ideas for Rowan center

By GENE VERNACCHIO, Courier-Post Staff

GLASSBORO--Entrepreneurs, residents and government and business leaders will gather Oct. 5 at Rowan University to help shape the school's planned $15 million-$20 million South Jersey High-Technology Center.

The South Jersey High-Tech Summit II, co-sponsored by the Courier-Post, Rowan and the Southern New Jersey Development Council, is designed essentially as a large brainstorming session, said Philip Tumminia, Rowan's executive vice president.

"We need to take some time to really put together a firm plan on what the South Jersey Technology Park at Rowan University will actually look like, both initially and long- term," said Tumminia of the center, which is hoped to be completed as early as 2004.

"We have ideas about how it should evolve, but we feel we should open up the process to a degree to people who have an interest in technology and people who have expertise and opinions," he said.

Particular focus is expected on which area of high-tech the center should specialize and how Rowan can close an estimated $9 million or more funding gap.

The summit, a sequel to one a year ago, is scheduled inside Rowan Hall from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Scheduled to participate in the panel are the university's board of trustees, the deans of Rowan's engineering and business colleges, Rowan President Dr. Donald Farish and others.

Tumminia said more than 50 individuals, many panelists in last year's summit, have been invited to participate.

Ed DuCoin, CEO of Liberty Bell Financial in Cherry Hill and a planned participant in the upcoming summit, said a new high-tech center is desperately needed in South Jersey for many reasons.

"The tax base is driven by jobs and companies will go to where the employees are," DuCoin said. "I just opened a new company called Liberty Bell Canadian Technologies in in in Newfoundland, Canada. I did it there because I can hire and attract well-qualified personnel and they wanted us to come to the area. But we basically did it because we were having a difficult time hiring that kind of personnel here.

"Having this center here is critical on so many different levels," DuCoin said. "Only the sophisticated people in economic development know that the guy who runs the lunch truck is going to benefit also. Any type of technology park or incubator that we can attract that is world class will have a ripple effect in the local economy."

Caren S. Franzini, executive director of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, said Rowan officials should strive to capitalize on resources already rooted in South Jersey.

"I think it's always best to build on your strengths," Franzini said. "They (Rowan) have a very strong engineering school and a strong business school. Those two entities working together can present tremendous opportunities in this new technology center.

"Also, look at what's already in South Jersey such as some of the food processors and telecommunications companies," she said. "Take their strength and build off it."

DuCoin said he thinks Rowan needs to do three important things before developing its center.

"I think we need to study other companies so we can learn what is successful that other organizations have done," he said. "Secondly, we should learn from their mistakes so we don't make the same.

"And thirdly, we should put our own creative thoughts and ingenuity into the process so that it's unique and not just a copycat facility," DuCoin said.

" ... I think some real good ideas will come out of that day, but as important as the ideas will be the enthusiasm that can be generated for this project to move forward," he said.

In June, the EDA 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.

But Rowan officials also are still working on ways to close the funding gap. Since the center is estimated at between $15 million and $20 million, the school is looking toward creating partnerships with South Jersey corporations.

Just last week, Rowan's board of trustees awarded a $150, 000 contract to the nonprofit, Philadelphia-based University City Science Center to help develop a strategic plan for the center.

Tumminia said the university expects the strategic plan to be completed within seven months. Construction could begin shortly thereafter, with completion expected within 2 to 3 years.

Tumminia said not every suggestion or comment taken at the upcoming summit will be implemented, but comments and remarks will be given serious consideration.

"We're certainly going to consider everything that is said and keep the process as open as possible," Tumminia said. " You never know where good ideas are going to come from.

"When you're doing something like high-technology, you know that it can very well be someone working in a garage in Elmer, New Jersey, with a product they're developing that may actually be the next big find," Tumminia said.

"So, by opening this up, we're hoping we have the right kind of people coming in and really giving us some good ideas," he said.

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Date Published: Sunday, September 23, 2001 - 20:09
Source URL: Courier-Post