Tech triangle to attract businesses

Northern Kentucky University and the surrounding community have developed a joint initiative designed to attract successful high-tech businesses to Campbell County.

The university has partnered with the Tri-County Economic Development (Tri-ED) to initiate a project called the Northern Kentucky Emerging Technology Commercialization Triangle. This “technology triangle” is the area surrounding NKU bound by I-275, AA Highway and U.S. 27.

Unlike similar programs in the region, Tri-ED seeks to attract businesses that are already successful. This program is designed for companies that already have a tested, established product.

Tri-ED, which promotes economic developments in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties, first began distributing 13-page brochures to companies across the country in June 2003. The brochures promote NKU and the region’s benefits, such as close access to regional and international airports, proximity to major interstates, and livable communities. According to the brochure, the university’s benefits include such features as interaction with faculty, staff and interns, as well as numerous research programs.

It’s not just the businesses that will benefit – the university and its students also stand to profit from the project.

Joe Wind, assistant vice president of community and government relations, said one benefit that will be afforded to NKU students is “building partnerships with knowledgeable companies that relate directly with [their] field of study.”

Students will have more job opportunities and work-study positions.

According to Wind, there are also several important long-term benefits.

“If a company’s success is closely linked to the partnership with the university, they will be more likely to support the university with their donations,” he said.

Wind also said that both state and federal governments invest more in universities that “understand this partnership philosophy.”

In response to this project, NKU has created the Institute for New Economy Technologies (iNET) to provide vital technology training and support for employees of the new businesses.

Director Dr. Rebecca White said that iNET’s mission is “bringing the intellectual resources and capital of the university to the service of new economy and knowledge-based companies in the region.”

Certain non-traditional programs would also be initiated to permit workers to attend school and receive a formal degree simultaneously. There will be new classes offered on both the graduate and undergraduate level at NKU. Training and certification on systems like Cisco and Microsoft would also be offered.

The university will create new spaces for students to collaborate with these industries. There will be labs for students and high-tech professionals to interact, or for business to utilize advanced information technology features that will be available at NKU.

The program will seek private funding to avoid the budget cuts, according to White. “Our goal is to minimize our dependency on state funding,” she said.

Only a handful of businesses are currently involved. General Cable Company is a nationally recognized fiber optics company, and is located just off the Three Mile Road entrance to the main campus. Other companies committed to this project are Medical Research Laboratories, Fifth Third Bank, and Fidelity Investments, which already employs over 200 NKU students at its on-campus call center.

The cities of Wilder and Cold Spring have already designated more than 100 acres near the AA Highway/U.S. 27 interchange to be zoned and developed for the project. In addition, Highland Heights has allocated 17 acres of land at the Nunn Drive entrance to NKU. There are also tentative plans to build hotels and a conference center.