In a smart move to aid the Erie region's economy, Penn State Behrend and the Greater Erie Industrial Development Corp. are working together on a new $18 million expansion for Knowledge Park.
The project would add a sixth building, which would mean construction jobs. But the project, which has been designed and awaits final approval, also shows the value of long-term thinking and patience.
As Jim Martin reported on July 21, Knowledge Park faced some tough times during the recession. Knowledge Park opened in 1999, but by 2009, occupancy had dropped to 30 percent. Now the park is squeezed for space -- a good problem to experience for the park, where more than 500 people are employed in organizations that partner with faculty, staff and students on applied research, pilot projects and startup businesses.
The 18 tenants include a global information, communications and technology business; a logistics business; a steam boiler business; and an aerospace manufacturer; as well as agencies that work with small business and government.
SKF Aerospace has more than 46,000 employees worldwide and a plant in Falconer, N.Y., that makes aerospace engine components.
At Knowledge Park, Behrend faculty members and students developed a robot to automate processes in Falconer. "They are doing applied research," said Robb Frederick, Behrend spokesman, about the students working with SKF. "It's not pie in the sky. These students have designed and deployed a robot on the floor of SKF," he said.
Ralph Ford, director of Behrend's School of Engineering, said that real-world experience is valuable for the school's students. The collaboration also raises Erie's profile by giving companies access to world-class research facilities and top faculty. Ford said that Penn State has fostered that relationship by allowing tenants to take ownership of the intellectual property developed there. "We are saying, 'If you pay for it, you own it,'" he said.
Katrina Smith, senior vice president of GEIDC, said the partnership approach has been key to attracting tenants. The new building, which could open by 2015, would have room for 250 additional employees and 30 Behrend faculty members, including 15 new positions. We know that type of growth is good news for the Erie region.
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