One benefit is it will house researchers developing devices, ideas to be licensed to biotech companies
The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMC) is developing plans for a research park on 25 acres on the site of the old Jackson Farmers’ Market.
Funding has been secured to begin the project, which will include a 75,000-square-foot research center, and long-term projections have the park expanding to more than 400,000 square feet within the next 15 years.
“We’re entering into this as a long-term project for us and a long-term commitment,” said David Dzielak, UMC’s assistant vice chancellor for strategic research alliances.
Dzielak said UMC has about $14 million in federally appropriated money and another $6 million was approved in a recent Congressional omnibus bill.
The nearly $20 million will be used to relocate water and sewer systems, demolish existing buildings and construct the first research building.
“We don’t really know how far we are going to get with that money, but we’re going to go as far as we can,” Dzielak said. “We are going to ask our congressional delegation for another round of funding.”
Preliminary plans are being drawn to determine building positions, road infrastructure, parking and landscaping.
“We are going to great pains to be as green as we can,” Dzielak said. “We are looking at how storm water will flow, the use of renewable materials for the buildings and the cost and savings on equipment for heating and cooling the buildings.”
The plan for the park was developed after the site was dropped as a possible site for a National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.
“The site is in great proximity to the medical center, and it’s between the Jackson Medical Mall and UMC’s main campus,” Dzielak said. “We thought we could create in a two-mile strip a life sciences corridor, so the concept of creating a biotech research park was hatched.”
From there, UMC officials approached congressional delegates to garner federal support and found their reaction positive, Dzielak said.
“This creates a new economic development paradigm that’s innovation-based,” he said.
Research can create jobs ranging from lab assistants to those with doctorate degrees, said Jack Mazurak, a writer for UMC’s public affairs division.
“(Research) increases the talent pool and skill levels of Mississippi’s workforce, and grant money from outside the state impacts Mississippi tremendously, re-circulating six to eight times in the local economy,” he said.
Another benefit of the park is that it will house researchers developing devices and ideas that can then be licensed to biotech companies for commercialization, said UMC and economic development officials.
“We are hoping to attract mini-anchor tenants and younger, developing biotech companies that will work with our innovators,” Dzielak said. “Now, as we develop patented ideas and develop new concepts, they’re licensed to other companies outside the state; that creates jobs for those companies. We do get the royalties, but we would like to have that money inside our state instead of farming that out.”
Tony Jeff, the president and CEO of the Mississippi Technology Alliance, said the building will be a hub for collaboration among researchers and bio-tech companies.
“We see lots of great research coming out of UMC, but they generally don’t have a home for spin-outs for commercialization,” Jeff said. “This park will provide one home for researchers, labs, mentors and corporate entities.
“There’s a lot going on in research development that can be commercialized, and if corporate entities that know how to market the developments come together with the researchers who are developing it to collaborate, it’s not as scary if they’re interacting on a regular basis.”
“If we have the researchers, accountants, attorneys and marketers all working around each other, it’s a benefit for researchers who don’t know the business side and businesses who don’t know the researcher’s side.”
Ben Allen, president of Downtown Jackson Partners, said the park will be a boon for the area.
“The whole plan is incredible,” he said. “This is the first part that’s kicking off, and the rest will hopefully follow suit. That this is going on in a down economy, we can’t say enough in support of it.
“This will help entice development in that area, and the synergy created there is just going to be great.”
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