On August 25, Governor Frank O'Bannon visited West Lafayette to help us dedicate the second business incubator in the Purdue Research Park. The Purdue Technology Center is a 60,000-square-foot building that will allow up to forty very young high-technology companies to develop and gain strength under the best possible circumstances.
In addition to providing operating space at very reasonable rent, the incubator offers the companies business planning, management, and financial services. It also provides easy access to the University's array of research and technical-support programs and the use of shared services, including a 75-person conference room with two-way videoconferencing equipment provided by the Lilly Endowment.
The Research Park's first incubator, opened in 1993, is operating at capacity with 29 firms, and a new Innovation Center is under construction. This new building will allow firms that grow out of the incubators to remain close to the park and take advantage of its support services.
This nurturing of small high-tech firms is part of Purdue's broader effort to support economic development in Indiana. Economic analyses consistently show that our state needs to supplement its traditional manufacturing and agricultural economy with a sector that is technology-based. Purdue, with its tremendous strengths in engineering, science, and technology, has an obligation to support that effort.
One of the keys is to move new knowledge from the university laboratory to the marketplace. The enclosed article from Chemical and Engineering News describes several cases of exciting developments that started with research at major universities -- including Purdue -- and now are turning into commercial successes. When this transformation happens, the results include high-end jobs, tax revenues for state and local governments, and the multiplier effect that comes when a flourishing company purchases the goods and services it needs to do business.
The trick is to make the process happen over and over again, so that many small high-tech firms succeed. When that occurs, the possibility also exists that one of them will metamorphose into a major corporation. The process starts with an idea, but it needs a cooperative effort by universities, local communities, and the state to allow it to build momentum.
The start of fall-semester classes in West Lafayette brought record numbers of students to the campus. The official count was 37,762, an increase of 884 over last year's record total. The estimated enrollment for the Purdue system is 66,650 students, also a record.
From my perspective, though, the real news is the steady improvement in the academic strength of our students. The average Scholastic Aptitude Test score for freshmen at West Lafayette has increase 15 points from three years ago. Almost half the new students were in the top 20 percent of their high school classes, and 185 of them were valedictorians.
Another important increase occurred in minority enrollment among freshmen, which increased 11.5 percent. The increase for African Americans was 25 percent in the freshman class.
In the student admissions process, Purdue's goal is not to recruit as many students as possible, but rather to assure that every qualified person who might have an interest has the opportunity to consider a Purdue education. Applications from Indiana residents and from out of state increase each year, although the University does no significant advertising., The continued growth of interest in the University comes from its academic reputation, and from growing awareness of the success of Purdue graduates in the job market and in graduate school.
The ceremonial end of summer occurred on the West Lafayette campus with commencement on August 8. Approximately 870 students received diplomas.
The new academic year started on August 23, and now the campus is vibrant with activity. I am optimistic that we will end the 1990s on a high note!