sealPurdue Letter from the President

October 2002

A monthly letter from President Martin C. Jischke

October 17 was a cool and rainy day in Lake County, but it was warm and sunny inside a tent on 93rd Street in Merrillville. That’s where we broke ground for the Purdue Technology Center of Northwest Indiana.

This $6 million facility will be built primarily with federal funds obtained by Representative Pete Visclosky. Its focus will be the development of new high-technology businesses, and I believe it has the potential to have a historic impact on the economy of the northwest corner of Indiana. Our plan is to attract startup companies to the incubator where they can be nurtured, supported and eventually launched as successful enterprises that will prosper in communities in and around Lake County.

If we are successful, we will have taken a significant step toward broadening the economic base of one of the key regions of our state. Northwest Indiana prospered for many years as one of America’s great manufacturing centers, but jobs in this economic sector are disappearing fast, and the area that includes Lake County has been hit especially hard. With Congressman Visclosky’s help, Purdue is confident it can be part of the solution.

From the University’s perspective, the new incubator has another important significance. The Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette has the largest university-affiliated incubator complex in the country, and it has had extraordinary success in developing new high-technology businesses by using facilities like the one we are building in Merrillville.

Entrepreneurship is a risky business. Nationally, about 30 percent of startup companies ultimately are successful. At the Research Park, the success rate is more than 85 percent. Several factors account for this tremendous performance. Through the Purdue Gateways program, new companies in the incubators receive the benefit of sound business advice, so they are less likely to make poor calculations about the financing they will need, the demand for their product or the costs of things like maintenance and marketing. They also receive favorable rental rates and the opportunity to share clerical and administrative support.

As they get stronger, the companies move on to become self-sufficient – and to make room for new startup ventures in the incubators. We believe there are opportunities to replicate this success throughout Indiana, and many communities have expressed interest in partnering with Purdue to develop their own incubators.

House Enrolled Act No. 1424 – a bill passed by the Indiana General Assembly in 2002 – set up the mechanism for community-based incubator programs. The bill passed both houses almost unanimously, but because of the state’s fiscal shortfall, it was not funded. The federal money provided through Congressman Visclosky’s efforts will allow Purdue and the people of Northwest Indiana to test this concept in a key area of the state. If we are successful – and I am confident we will be – the state will have a blueprint for successful ventures in other communities.

• • •

I had the privilege of spending a day in Logansport on October 29. The visit was part of my ongoing program to get to better know the people and communities of Indiana so that Purdue can improve the quality of its service to our state. In addition to a warm welcome from many wonderful people, I found in Logansport:

• A community that cares for and is investing in its youth, as exemplified by the Fairview Elementary School and the Century Career Center. Fairview is beautifully run by a staff of imaginative and loving teachers and administrators. The Century Center is an impressive facility being put to good use to prepare young people for productive careers.

• A business sector that’s working hard to meet the challenges of a changing economy. I met with representatives of several local businesses and the local Economic Development Foundation. In every case, people in leadership positions are using rational, imaginative and energetic approaches to improving the economic conditions of their region.

• A city and a county that are recognizing that change can bring opportunity. Logansport and Cass County – like many Indiana communities – are dealing with important new realities. Future generations will need to be better educated and equipped with the ability to learn and adapt to change throughout their lives. They will work with people from many different backgrounds, cultures and ethnic groups.

Logansport is facing the future with courage and creativity. I believe the excitement and optimism I saw and heard there are great examples for all the communities of our state.

Martin C. Jischke