NKU woos tech firms for jobs

If the Northern Kentucky University Foundation’s plan succeeds, the Highland Heights, Ky., of the future may be full of prosperous technology companies.

For the last two years, the foundation has worked with the city of Highland Heights, the city of Cold Springs, Campbell County and the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to attract established businesses to NKU’s surrounding community. The foundation hopes to attract businesses focused on e-commerce and other Internet services, said NKU Foundation President Jim Alford. With high-technology companies surrounding the university, Alford said this will give students more opportunity to learn the latest advances in business.

“Business will have access to an educated work force and students will have more job opportunities,” Alford said.

The university is using its rapid growth as a means to attract businesses, said NKU President James Votruba.

“Companies will like the easy access to our students,” he said.

About nine acres of property owned by the NKU Foundation will be leased to businesses wanting to move close to the university. This property is divided into two parts, one on U.S. 27 adjacent to campus where the Thriftway Food-Drug store used to sit and a “technology park” that already houses some offices on Tesseneer Drive off of University Drive.

Alford said the land on U.S. 27 next to the Mark R. Hermann center may be the site for a hotel/conference center. A hotel business next to campus would give NKU the ability to host bigger conferences and events, he explained.

In addition to land and students, the state awarded NKU $500,000 to update the school’s technology. The money will be used to increase the university’s bandwidth or ability for their computer servers and Internet connections to handle five times more traffic. The upgrade in bandwidth will make NKU more alluring to businesses, said Chief Information Officer Gary Pratt.

“We are building an infrastructure so we will be able to provide more educated work force and more capabilities for the departments to be able to work with the companies,” Pratt said. “If we don’t have the infrastructure in place to support that, then we won’t be as attractive.”

No specific companies have been named by the NKU Foundation, but Alford said he is hopeful that the groundbreaking for a new office building on one of the two foundation’s properties will take place within one year.

Within several years, NKU will be surrounded by a fast growing town, said Jim Drye, planning and zoning director for Highland Heights.

“It will be more vibrant and offer residents more employment and opportunity,” Drye said.