As the Indiana General Assembly struggles with the states complex budget and tax structure problems, the central challenge our legislators face is the encouragement of economic growth.
If our governmental leaders are able to create a climate that helps existing Indiana companies prosper, that is attractive to firms seeking to relocate or expand, and that encourages and supports the development of new enterprises, our state will experience job growth and increases in standards of living. These things lead to more consumer spending, new construction, community improvements and an influx of young and creative people. This all adds up to general prosperity and ultimately to more tax dollars to support public services.
Obviously, these wonderful things will not happen overnight, and they will require much more than an enlightened state budget bill. However, they wont happen until we remove the obstacles that our current tax structure creates to economic growth.
Purdue has been working to foster this kind of growth for more than forty years through Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette. Opened in 1961 under the auspices of the Purdue Research Foundation, the Park has quietly established the largest technology incubation program in the United States.
Located about a mile from the Purdue campus on the northwest edge of West Lafayette, the Research Park is home to more than eighty companies employing about 2,500 people.
One of the keys to the Parks success and, I believe, to Indianas future, is a thriving business incubation program. The first incubator facility, the Purdue Technology Center, opened in 1993. It quickly reached capacity, and three more incubators have been built since then. They offer a shared-office concept, flexible leases and attractive rental rates for start-up companies. They also provide easy access to the immense intellectual resources of the University.
In 2001, Vistech 1 opened. The $6 million office building was funded by the private investment group Research Properties LLC to provide another rental option for rapidly growing high-tech companies.
The 73,000-square-foot Vistech facility represents something of a turning point for the Research Park. The three other incubators were built with Purdue Research Foundation funds as part of our engagement commitment to the state and the community. Vistech 1 is a business enterprise. The commitment by investors is their vote of confidence that the University, the Research Park and the state of Indiana can be successful in developing new high-technology businesses that will become profitable.
There is ample data to support this confidence. A survey conducted by the National Business Incubation Association reports that companies begun in such nurturing facilities experience a remarkable 75 percent rate of success. Furthermore, an average of 84 percent of these firms remain in their communities. Research also shows that small companies produce a relatively high share of all the technological advances introduced to American industry.
Obviously, Purdue Research Park is good for Indiana, and it is a concept that we should build on. All of the companies that started from scratch in the Park are still relatively small, but a high percentage of them are succeeding and growing.
Will any of them become the next Microsoft or Eli Lilly and Company?
An honest answer to that question is very possibly. If that happens, the company will be rooted in Indiana. With additional investments from the private and public sector, Purdue hopes to build on the success in West Lafayette and export the concept to other Indiana communities. But even if a new industry giant doesnt emerge, a significant number of highly successful new firms will continue to grow in Purdue Research Park, and that is good news for our state.
The month of May is a joyous time for those of us who work in education. Commencement ceremonies remind us that it is the education of future generations that is the central focus of our universities. At four ceremonies in West Lafayette, Purdue awarded about 5,200 degrees in May. Nearly 3,000 more students received diplomas on the regional campuses and at Statewide Technology locations.
Each of these in some way is a happy ending to the pursuit of an education and a happy beginning to a life of unlimited potential. It makes my job fun!