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Published: Sunday, 9/18/2005

A high-tech corridor

TOLEDO may be sinking too much hope in the idea that high-technology industries will somehow magically blossom and revitalize the city if a "technology corridor" or "research park" is built along Westwood Avenue or another locale.

Although well worn, the idea has taken on new life from University of Toledo President Dan Johnson's vision for a Toledo Science and Technology Corridor. By linking the technology assets of local academe and industry, it supposedly would stimulate economic activity by attracting high-technology industry and much-needed jobs.

The technology corridor idea already has been mentioned in the mayoral campaign as a way to foster new economic growth.

Research parks certainly have done that elsewhere, reshaping urban landscapes and instilling new vitality and economic life into areas losing traditional manufacturing jobs.

Icons like Stanford Industrial Park in northern California's Silicon Valley and Research Triangle Park (RTP) in North Carolina sprang up in the 1950s and 1960s. Those successes spawned hundreds of imitators.

Some have been smash successes, and others disappointments that left cities with no economic revival and venture capitalists without a payback on investments.

Many successful ventures have top-of-the line universities as their anchor - what were classified as "Research 1" institutions until the Carnegie Foundation changed its ranking system. RTP, for instance, includes powerhouses like Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

As the anchor for a Toledo Science and Technology Corridor, UT's stature and reputation would naturally figure into the equation as high-tech businesses, courted by dozens of technology parks elsewhere, pick a new home.

The technology corridor idea is promising. However, it may remain a dream, or become a disappointing reality, unless UT's trustees and administration face the sad truth about the university's own national stature and make amends.

First things first.

Pursuit of a technology corridor should take a back seat to efforts to improve UT's stature as a research institution. That means recruiting world-class scientists capable of snaring millions in federal research money now bypassing the university. Some should be of the caliber elected to the National Academy of Sciences or regarded as Nobel Prize candidates.

UT must pull itself up by the bootstraps first for a good idea to reach fruition because Mr. Johnson's technology park will be the proverbial apple that always falls close to the tree.

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