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UPDATED: CROET partners with others on “one of a kind” park

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The article that follows is the latest in a series of profiles on the parks in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley and their unique roles in accelerating the growth of technology-based enterprises in the region. The focus on the Community Reuse Organization {CROET} of East Tennessee will include four articles that collectively explore its purpose and role in developing three distinctively different parks. This is the last of those CROET articles.)

The newest and perhaps most challenging business park that the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee (CROET) is developing is the Oak Ridge Science and Technology Park (ORS & T).

While the Oak Ridge Park is not CROET’s first pioneering journey, it is one with a variety of moving parts during a prolonged national recession. It is also the only business park that is located within the secured footprint of a national laboratory.

In his extended interview with teknovation.biz, Lawrence Young, CROET’s President and Chief Executive Officer, talked about the ORS & T vision that four people developed in 2005. The four were Alex Fischer, former Tennessee Deputy Governor who was serving as Director of Technology Transfer and Economic Development at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); Barry Goss, founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Pro2Serve; Jeff Smith, ORNL Deputy Director for Operations; and Young.

“Barry wanted to expand his business and do it in an appropriate way,” Young recalled. “It was notionally something we developed to enhance connections between technologies developed at ORNL and the private sector.”

He said that the idea was to get companies to locate here because of ORNL, something that Young and others in the economic development community had pursued for years without great success.

“This was a way to knock that wicket down” by giving companies the opportunity to locate within the ORNL footprint, an option that had not existed, Young explained.

Visualizing something is one thing, making it happen not always as easy.

“We faced significant challenges in developing the site” for Pro2Serve’s 110,000 square foot building, Young said, noting that “there was only one piece of infrastructure – electricity – available.” CROET secured a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration for infrastructure improvements.

Young praised the Oak Ridge Utility District (ORUD), calling the utility a “phenomenal partner in all development projects.” He cited ORUD’s willingness to extend gas service to the ORS & T as just one example.

CROET leased land to Innovation Valley Holdings, a partnership between Knoxville developer John David Roddy, and Goss.

“Having the Pro2Serve facility underwritten totally by the private sector was a boon to ORNL,” Young believes. “The Pro2Serve project has been a great success.”

As part of its ORS & T role, DOE leased an existing facility (Building 2033) to CROET for 20 years. The three-story facility was renamed the Halcyon Commercialization Center (HCC) and is positioned as “a place for small companies to lease space and have direct connection to ORNL researchers,” Young said.

“The companies have met with mixed success,” he says while citing HCC tenant Roane State Community College (RSCC) as winner for ORNL and CROET. RSCC has located its three U.S. Department of Labor-funded initiatives in the building and offers courses there. The programs include the Advanced Composites Employment (ACE) Accelerator, Advanced Materials Training and Education Center, and National STEM Consortium.

CROET has one remaining parcel in the ORS & T, and it is leased to the Goss-Roddy team. “It is incumbent on them to develop it,” Young says, acknowledging that the economy made that difficult in the last few years.

As far as CROET’s future at the ORS & T, Young says that additional parcels could become available.

The Oak Ridger published a 2008 three-part series on CROET, written by Ray Smith. The links to the articles in the series are:

Part 1 – http://www.oakridger.com/columnists/x596325760/Community-Reuse-Organization-of-East-Tennessee

Part 2 – http://www.oakridger.com/news/x1009160641/Community-Reuse-Organization-of-East-Tennessee

Part 3 – http://www.oakridger.com/news/x1435860716/Community-Reuse-Organization-of-East-Tennessee-Part-3

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