Centennial Research Park seeks to bring more jobs to Kent

D.J. Petty

If you want to learn how to take an old bus garage and turn it into a million bucks, just ask Greg Wilson.

Wilson, associate vice president of economic development and strategic partnering, is the conceptual architect for Centennial Research Park, a project funded with over $7 million from the state of Ohio. The space is a former 44,000 square-foot bus garage that is now a high-tech office building. The space may be a future home to two start-up companies – AlphaMicron, Inc. and Pathogen Systems, Inc.

Despite the buzz that has surrounded Kent State, the city of Kent and the companies’ collaborative venture, the ink isn’t yet dry on the deal.

“I don’t want to count my chickens until they’re hatched,” Wilson said.

He acknowledged, however, that the agreement is on a strong course for completion.

“We’re in the process of finalizing some tenants,” he said. “Everybody has the intent to do this.”

With that intent comes a great hope of expanded economic development for Kent State and the city.

“I see it as part of economic development for the university,” said Pat Book, vice president of regional development.

Book is hoping Kent State’s globally recognized liquid crystal program is key to increasing the area’s financial fortitude.

“(It’s) where we marry our scholarship of discovery with commercial application,” she said.

Kent City Manager Dave Ruller agreed.

“It’s a shining star for how commercialization can work,” he said.

Ruller said the city was planning to build an individual economic strategy around the research venture. Ruller said he believed the potential occupants of Centennial Park would “bring new jobs into the region.”

A June 2008 labor report from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services showed Portage County’s unemployment rate sat at 6.2 percent, a little below the statewide average of 6.7 percent.

Roy Miller, director of product development for AlphaMicron, said increases in company production could boost employment numbers.

“When you find talented labor, you hold on to them, he said. “It will probably bring more jobs.”

Book also felt infusing the region with more employment was a bonus.

“It retains talent, creates jobs and contributes to our economy,” she said.

Ruller said “the whole concept is something we’re big fans of.”

“We’re dancing in the street and it’s great for Kent,” he said.

Contact general assignment reporter D.J. Petty at [email protected].