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Published: Monday, 8/6/2007

$2M grant to boost University of Toledo science corridor

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The University of Toledo Science and Technology Corridor, touted for years as the solution to enhance the regional economy, is getting a boost with nearly $2 million in federal funds.

The corridor, which began as an idea of former UT President Dan Johnson in early 2003, will see some physical advancements with the $1,952,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce s Economic Development Administration.

UT will match the grant with money from land sales.

The total investment of nearly $4 million will be used to build roads and infrastructure, including sewers and lights, in the south perimeter of the corridor, which is the area near the UT Health Science Campus, formerly the Medical College of Ohio.

The grant will be announced at a ground-breaking ceremony today on Arlington Avenue east of the UT Medical Center, where the shovel-ready site will be built to attract business. The goal is to have the groundwork complete by spring of 2008.

We want to draw high-tech business that would benefit with collaboration from the university, UT President Lloyd Jacobs said.

We want to commercialize and license research out of the university and make them new businesses, Dr. Jacobs said. A great university just doesn t stop at the publication of a research paper, but carries it on to the time it is in production.

The UT Science and Technology Corridor will extend from the UT Main Campus on Bancroft Street, south to the Health Science Campus on Arlington Avenue, and east to the Scott Park Campus on Nebraska Street.

The corridor is not composed of straight lines to each campus, but will zig-zag around neighborhoods so no residents will be disrupted by the push for economic advancement, Dr. Jacobs said.

By including all campuses in the corridor, the idea is to encourage new businesses to build sites near researchers and experts in similar fields, such as engineering-related companies near the main campus and biomedical industries near the health science campus.

The closer we can locate [businesses] to sources of intellectual capital, the better off we will be, Dr. Jacobs said.

During the last four years, some specific aspects of the science and technology corridor have changed including the name, geographic dimensions, and major players involved but the spirit of innovation for the city s future has remained.

Announced in January, 2003, Mr. Johnson s idea of a corridor would create the means to aggressively encourage collaboration among institutions to tackle large projects.

At that time, the Toledo Zoo and Toledo Hospital were pegged for inclusion, with the hopes of reaching out to include Bowling Green State University and Owens Community College.

A light-rail system to move people throughout the corridor, which was then named the Northwest Ohio Science and Technology Corridor, also was included in the vision.

The current plan is geographically more concentrated in the areas bounded by the UT campuses, but still includes city and county officials, the Regional Growth Partnership, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, and others, said Thomas Gutteridge, UT s dean of the college of business administration, who on Friday was appointed chairman of the Science and Technology Corridor Corp.

The Science and Technology Corridor Corp. has a board of about 10 members, mostly area business officials, who will oversee the corridor.

Also helping lead the project will be Mary Jo Waldock, interim dean of University College, who is to serve as special assistant to the president for economic development.

Another group working on the project, the Corridor Operations Group, includes university officials and those from the city and other interested parties.

Tom Davies, the city s development commissioner who is a member of the operations group, said the corridor project is a community effort that will give the area a stable economy for the next century.

We have a great entrepreneurial spirt in Toledo that hasn t fully evolved yet, he said Toledo is moving toward innovation. The technology corridor is the mechanism that s going to get us there.

Successes such as the alternative energy and information technology businesses in UT incubators also are part of the overall corridor project, as well as the university s prospects with the Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization, Mr. Gutteridge said.

As an urban university, we ve got to leverage our knowledge resources to not only enhance the education of students and research our faculty is doing, [but] we have to be a source for enhancement for the region we re part of, he said.

Mr. Johnson, who was appointed to lead the corridor after the merger between UT and the former Medical University of Ohio, has since taken more of an advisory role for the project. He is on a sabbatical this year and will concentrate on research for long-term goals for the region and less on the day-to-day work of developing the corridor.

But he s pleased with the progress of his vision and the steam it could pick up with this new infrastructure.

Over the last year or so, things have really picked up, Mr. Johnson said.

It s now becoming a much more broadly endorsed vision for the future of the university and its economic development role in the region.

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:mgilbert@theblade.comor 419-724-6134.



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