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It’s the start of a new year, and South Bend’s high-tech future is looking bright.
Although some final work remains in preparing the city’s Ignition Park, Mayor Stephen J. Luecke says the former Studebaker site will soon be ready for development.
|Mayor Stephen J. Luecke|
“We’ve made terrific progress in 2009, and the two remaining buildings there will be coming down early in 2010,” he says. “I’m excited about the opportunities Ignition Park represents. We already are getting some inquiries from companies that are coming on the radar. We are beginning to become a viable option as people think about making investments, particularly as the economy is starting to improve.”
Luecke says the City is keenly interested in businesses that are associated with research at the University of Notre Dame.
“They could be start-ups looking to commercialize a product or existing companies seeking ways to improve their current product mix or to make better products,” he explains. “We think there will be opportunity for that kind of mix at Ignition Park.”
The Mayor says he is encouraged that the Transpo maintenance facility at the south end of the park is seeking Platinum status as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified building – the first for a transit facility in the United States.
“We believe this sets a high standard of the type of construction that we want to see in Ignition Park, as we move forward,” says the Mayor.
Investing in South Bend’s future
Luecke reflects on the recent opening of Innovation Park at Notre Dame as a major milestone.
“As the sister site of Ignition Park, Innovation Park will attract companies which will grow and develop,” he says.
“This is a key part of the feeder system that will lead to new investments and ultimately jobs in Ignition Park. Innovation Park will also be home to legal, financial and other support services for fledgling companies.”
The mayor says the City has already invested millions of dollars to support the eventual creation of high-tech jobs in South Bend, and will continue those investment efforts.
Specifically, the City of South Bend provided $1 million to support the Midwest Institute for Nanoelectronics Discovery (MIND) at Notre Dame and another $15 million for the clearance and preparation of the Ignition Park site.
Luecke says the city will leverage its financial resources strategically to attract investments from the private sector.
“We are prepared to make further investments to ensure that we have a site that is attractive to researchers, investors and entrepreneurs to support their efforts to commercialize new products,” he notes.
With Ignition Park’s site preparation nearly done, he says the city is now working with a consultant to make near- and long-term plans to support tech-based development in South Bend
“We will be looking at opportunities for the City to bring additional resources that can assist in the prototyping of products or creating facilities or equipment that will be invaluable to new tenants of Ignition Park as they come on line,” the Mayor says. “We are very engaged in making those critical decisions now, so that we get the best results from the investment of public dollars to help companies move forward and create jobs in our community.”
Looking ahead, Luecke sees South Bend beginning to bear fruit from the seeds that have been planted in recent years.
“In five years, we will really begin to feel the impact of the investments that have been made by the City, Notre Dame and other partners in the community,” he says. “But changes will not happen right away. This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Luecke says he sees parallels with the successful Purdue Research Parks in the state, which have been under development since the late 1990s.
“Purdue Research parks certainly have seen steady growth and development,” he says. “We want to provide the environment for similar success here, but it won’t happen overnight. We need to have a timeframe that will be manageable, so that we can adjust to changes.”
Luecke says he believes the strong collaboration between government, the private sector and Notre Dame has put South Bend on a path to establish itself as a center of innovation, once again.
“When I look into the future, I see that South Bend is a bright spot as the economy begins to improve,” he notes, while gazing out his window at the city. “And that over the long haul, people will want to be here and associate with South Bend because of our vision and our investments in technology and infrastructure.”