Firms Eye High-Tech Park

Firms Eye High-Tech Park

By Andrea Novotny
Staff Writer

Penn State University's Erie campus is teaming with a nonprofit development corporation to develop a high-tech industrial facility to create jobs and promote the state's manufacturing industry.

Knowledge Park, which will be located on the south edge of the campus, will span 200 acres and represent an investment of up to $100 million.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge

The Greater Erie Industrial Development Corp. will develop the park using a $600,000 Opportunity Grant awarded last month on behalf of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. The nonprofit organization, which develops industrial land and facilities for job creation and retention in Erie County, Pa., will kick in $10 million for the project over the next 18 months, said Robert Ploehn, the corporation's president.

"The economic engine of Erie is manufacturing bolstered by a strong, skilled work force," Ploehn said. "Companies see this partnership as a mechanism for engineering recruitment. It's a win-win for everybody."

The partnership is expected to create 200 new jobs in northwestern Pennsylvania over the next five years, Ploehn said. Most of those positions will focus on applied technology but the amount of experience required for them will vary, he said.

Plans call for approximately $25 million of the total investment to be made during the next five years, Ploehn said. Construction of the park is scheduled to begin this spring. The first phase calls for the development of 56 acres of land within the next 18 months, including an infrastructure and four buildings projected to be 40,000 square feet or more in size.

Plans call for the park to be developed in four phases over the next several years, but that schedule will depend on the demand for park space, Ploehn said. Eighty percent of the buildings will be used as office space, and the remainder will be laboratory space.

Four companies are in final negotiations with the Greater Erie Industrial Development Corp. to locate in the park, said Ploehn.

Without naming the companies, he said that three are involved in light manufacturing. The other company is an information technology firm, which will provide roughly half of the newly created jobs, he said.

Several other companies have expressed interest in space at the park, which will initially be available for up to 10 companies, Ploehn said.

"This park is not focused on start-up or highly leveraged venture capital companies. We're interested in mature companies with a solid track record of [public-private] partnerships," Ploehn said.

State officials are confident the park will serve not only as a focal point for manufacturing but for the plastics industry as well, said Lauren Cotter, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, which administers the Opportunity Grant program.

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