Tech park may keep Tuscarawas students in ‘the Valley’

Morgan Day

Laura VanVickle, sophomore mechanical engineering technology major, said students from the Tuscarawas campus would rather live and work in the area after earning their degrees.

In that case, future Kent State-Tuscarawas graduates seeking high-tech jobs in the Tuscarawas Valley can simply take a stroll across the street to find a potential place of employment.

The Tuscarawas Regional Technology Park will be located on 170 acres adjacent to the university, and after breaking ground in August, is expected to be complete in two years. It will bring about 600 jobs to New Philadelphia.

The park will not only give students the opportunity for employment upon graduation, but also it will present opportunities for students to become entrepreneurs, said Tuscarawas Dean Gregg Andrews.

“We would hope … the tech park is really successful when we see our students opening businesses in the tech park as well,” said Andrews, also vice president of the Tuscarawas County Community Improvement Corporation. He first envisioned the tech park seven years ago along with CIC Director Heinz Stucki.

Rebekah Moss, sophomore computer design and animation engineering technology major, said she’s already heard students discussing plans to start their own businesses. She thinks the park will be an ideal place for graduates to make connections and start their careers.

“You have to start somewhere, and starting there would be sweet,” she said.

A group of faculty members in the business and technology departments are working with Andrews and a few others to develop an entrepreneurship initiative on the campus, which would promote and educate students about entrepreneurship, Andrews said.

Outreach Program Director Flo Smith said the campus hosts a young entrepreneur seminar each year for 200-250 high school juniors and seniors where the students explore entrepreneurship as a career path. In addition, the campus holds spotlight breakfasts twice a year for the community to learn about the tech park and technology.

The university also operates Region 10 of the Ohio Small Business Development Center and works with new and expanding small businesses in a 10-county area from the campus.

“We have this type of expertise already on campus to help these students to develop business plans, to do the research (and) to begin the … prototyping process through our Advanced Technology Center,” Andrews said.

Kamal Bichara, academic program director of the College of Technology, said this is an ideal situation because companies are always looking for students to work with, and the park is so close to campus.

“(The technology park) is in our backyard, and our research will be so much more direct,” he said.

However, the park has been a challenge since the beginning. Initially, it was difficult to convince the CIC board and state and local officials the park was an opportunity for the community, Andrews said.

“Over a period of time we have been able to really garner the type of support that’s needed to move this project forward,” he said.

VanVickle said this will be a great opportunity for the rural town.

“Obviously, not many companies have the urge to go to New Philadelphia,” she said. “It’s not necessarily a bustling metropolis or anything.”

Ryan Elkins, junior electrical engineering technology major, said the park will offer students opportunities for internships, specialized training and full-time jobs after they graduate.

Both VanVickle and Elkins said they aren’t positive they would seek employment at the tech park after graduation. VanVickle plans to look into it, while Elkins said he would have to feel it’s the right fit for him.

Moss said she would enjoy working at the tech park, but she cannot stay in the area for long because of her degree. She said she would like to start her own business to help “bring some sort of animation to the area,” and help others launch their animation careers.

“It’s 2,000 miles until we can actually get a good job in animation,” she said, adding that her dream job would be to work for Pixar. “I have big dreams, but I would love to help other people get started.”

Contact regional south campuses reporter Morgan Day at [email protected].