Tech park waiting on loan deal

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Southeast Missouri State University will not negotiate in earnest with any businesses to locate to its 410-acre Technology Park until state funding is securely in place for a life science business incubator, university president Dr. Ken Dobbins said Tuesday.

Still, Dobbins hopes the state allocates the $4.5 million for the incubator to the university by January, roughly the same time the university foundation will have selected a master developer to help implement the plan for the mix of residential, retail and biotechnology firms.

The university's property sits along Interstate 55 between Cape Girardeau and Jackson.

Dobbins spoke at the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce Transportation Dinner Tuesday night and answered questions afterward that shed some light on the project.

"I really think you'll see something there within two or three years," Dobbins said. "You're not going to build out 400 acres in that period of time. But you'll see some activity out there."

Dobbins said the university will begin negotiating for life sciences and other business to locate at the park once the state approves the $350 million Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative.

That program, which includes selling portions of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, would provide the $4.5 million to put toward building a business incubator.

"We can't build anything right now," Dobbins said. "The MOHELA deal isn't finished. Once that is approved, then we can talk with several firms that we have out there."

Tuesday night's event was attended by officials from the Missouri Department of Transportation, Cape Girardeau and Jackson city officials and others.

Dennis Roedemeier, who directs the Missouri Research Corp., which coordinates business and technology research efforts at the university, also spoke at the meeting, which served as an overview for transportation officials.

Roedemeier said the university owns 300 acres on the east side of Interstate 55 in Cape Girardeau and 100 on the west side, which is in Jackson. The project is near the new East Main Street interchange project.

The university's plan has three parts -- retail, life sciences businesses and a university village that will provide housing, largely for Southeast alumni ages 55 and above, Roedemeier said.

A recent survey sent to 4,800 alumni across the country received 527 responses, he said. Respondents said they were not interested in swimming pools and golf courses but were interested in walking trails and fitness.

"We want this to be a community," he said.

Construction on the interchange that will connect the properties is expected to start any day, Dobbins and Roedemeier said.

335-6611, extension 137

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