Unique partnership creates region's first research park from long-shuttered manufacturing plant to house Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative
By Jill Scoggins
A group of state, county and city governments and organizations and higher educational institutions in Central Texas announced in October the creation of the Central Texas Technology and Research Park and introduced the park's first project, the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC), to be housed in the former General Tire facility on South Loop Drive in Waco.
The Central Texas Technology and Research Park will develop, promote and market science and engineering technologies, university research and advanced technology training and workforce development. Those collaborating in the project include Baylor University, Texas State Technical College, McLennan Community College, McLennan County, City of Waco, City of Bellmead, Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corporation, Bellmead Economic Development Corporation, Waco Industrial Foundation, Heart of Texas Council of Governments and the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.
A who's who of local leaders participated in the news conference announcing the park on Oct. 23, including Texas Sen. Kip Averitt, BBA '77, MBA '78; Texas Rep. Jim Dunnam, BBA '86, JD '87; Texas Rep. Charles "Doc" Anderson; Ray Meadows, McLennan County Commissioners Court; Waco Mayor Virginia DuPuy, BA '56, MA '62; R. Dary Stone, JD '77, Baylor University Board of Regents chairman; Dr. David E. Garland, Baylor University interim president; Dr. Elizabeth Davis, BBA '84, Baylor University interim provost; Dr. Truell Hyde, MS '80, PhD '88, Baylor University vice provost for research; Elton Stuckly, Texas State Technical College-Waco president; Bill Clifton, representing the Waco Industrial Foundation; and Clifton Robinson, BBA '63, Waco business and civic leader.
"Baylor's 2012 Vision encouraged us to advance Baylor by developing a university that matched its outstanding teaching reputation with an outstanding research capability. The City of Waco has also developed a strategic vision for its future. The wide-ranging and broadly supported Community Visioning Process has been designed to strengthen our community's economic, social and cultural capacities," Garland said. "These strategic visions have come together in the creation of the Central Texas Technology and Research Park. The BRIC is an example of what we can achieve when we harness all of the resources of our community and we work together."
"The primary purpose of the BRIC is to enhance regional applied research capability; provide cutting edge workforce training and development; encourage collaboration between higher education, business, industry, governmental entities and communities; and to encourage technology transfer and commercialization of research in order to foster economic development within the region," Davis said. "As such, the BRIC both complements and extends longstanding community visions and economic development goals."
BRIC will provide graduate research space for Baylor's School of Engineering and Computer Science and for select Baylor interdisciplinary research centers and institutes. It also will provide space for advanced technology training and workforce development for Texas State Technical College and McLennan Community College programs, space for anchor industry partners already located in or newly recruited to McLennan County, and space for joint research symposia and educational meetings.
Robinson, his family and H. Bland Cromwell helped make the park a reality by offering the General Tire facility to Baylor to re-purpose as it saw fit for the benefit of the University and the community. Baylor's commitment to Waco and McLennan County led it and its community partners to consider ways in which Baylor could grow its research enterprise in a collaborative manner and have a positive impact on regional economic development.
A report from The Perryman Group, headed by local economic and financial analyst Ray Perryman, BS '74, projects the center to employ 300 people when it opens in 2012. Within 15 years of its launch, he expects the park to generate between $1.5 billion and $4.2 billion in economic impact for Central Texas while creating between 8,000 and 22,000 jobs.
"And these will be relatively well-paying, high-tech, faculty-type jobs," added Hyde. "The types of jobs that will be attracted will be white-collar jobs."
Funding for BRIC thus far has been generated through state appropriation and Baylor commitment. Averitt and Dunnam spearheaded legislation in the 81st session of the Texas Legislature to appropriate $10 million to Texas State Technical College for "capital expenditures and renovations for collaborative research projects" in partnership with Baylor. Baylor's Board of Regents has committed another $10 million to support the initial renovation phase of the effort.
Stone praised the work of Averitt, Dunnam, Anderson and Robinson in making BRIC a reality and presented proclamations from the Board to each. "The legislative team that represents Waco--Sen. Averitt, Rep. Dunnam, Rep. Anderson--are heroes," Stone said. "These are not easy economic days to obtain funding from the state legislature. This community is well served to have these three gentlemen representing us in Austin.
"Clifton Robinson is a hero, also, both to Baylor and to this community. Clifton comes up with ideas on his own to make things better for his community and for his alma mater."
The funding is for the first renovation stage of the General Tire facility, a process that will begin soon, said Hyde. "We are only a few short months away from putting boots on the ground and shovels to work on the Central Texas Technology and Research Park," Hyde said. "Bringing the BRIC to reality will begin with a full renovation of the 300,000-square-foot building."
Phase I will consist of:
Demolition of existing walls and steel structure that remained from the old plant operations;
Restoration and repair of the facility's existing brick veneer;
Removal of the existing roof and installation of a new one;
Replacement of all windows;
Installation of new internal stairways and elevators;
Construction of a new atrium/lobby to clearly define the building entrance; and
Installation of new parking lots, signage and landscaping.
Additional investments by Baylor and its regional partners will be necessary to provide for the full renovation and operation of the facility. With additional funding, a second phase of development will begin to complete space for research, workforce training and industry anchor space.
The General Tire facility will be transferred to a nonprofit corporation with Baylor managing the facility. An advisory board, made up of representatives from each of the collaborating organizations, has been established to advise BRIC in its continued development.
General Tire originally built the facility in the 1940s to meet the demand for tire manufacturing during World War II. Subsequent additions were completed in the 1950s and 1970s on the 21-acre site. The plant closed in 1986.
"The significance of the General Tire building's location is no small matter," DuPuy said. "Property that was once a center of prosperity during the days of General Tire will again become a center of economic prosperity, spurring related development in the surrounding properties, with more jobs and investment back in the heart of our community. This will impact our families for generations to come."
With the creation of the Central Texas Technology and Research Park and BRIC, Baylor and its partners join approximately 170 other research parks in North America. A recent study commissioned by the Association of University Research Parks and completed by the Batelle Memorial Institute found that university research parks in the U.S. and Canada encompass more than 47,000 acres, include 124 million square feet, and employ more than 300,000 workers. Of greatest significance is that every single job in a research park generates an average of 2.57 jobs outside the park.
"Over the long term, the combination of research and advanced workforce training with a business and technology incubator will provide an economic development engine, producing new business starts expected to create high-technology jobs locally," Davis said. "The quality of space provided within the BRIC will also attract research and high technology companies, which in turn should have a significant future economic impact on the area. Finally, use of the facility for university-industry partnerships has the potential to unite academic and commercial enterprises, providing a fertile environment for new or existing high-tech businesses."