Penn State Erie is hoping a new $30 million center for its engineering and business schools and a closely related research park will spark economic development in the Erie, Pa., area, including luring plastics firms.
The center, announced in late December, is billed as an attempt to bring more intellectually based economic development, like applied research and industrial design, to northwestern Pennsylvania. The companion research park opened in 1999, and university officials plan to launch a marketing effort to plastics firms this spring to entice them.
The school wants to have close partnerships between its polymer programs and the firms that locate in the research park, said Bob Light, associate provost of the campus. Right now, the 20-acre park has two tenants: boiler manufacturer Aalborg Industries A/S of Denmark and locomotive maker GE Transportation Systems. Both have engineering centers there.
The Research and Economic Development Center will double the size of the university's polymer labs and let it boost overall enrollment, including business programs, from 3,800 to 5,000, Light said. It also will bring the school's Plastics Technology Development Center back to the same building as the engineering school, after a space crunch forced it elsewhere, he said.
The school is one of three plastics engineering technology programs nationwide certified by the Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology.
The 160,0000-square-foot center "will allow us to expand our technology transfer lab, increase faculty and increase students," Light said. The center is scheduled to open in 2004.
That can't come too soon for Hoop Roche, president and chief executive officer of Erie Plastics in Corry, Pa., and chairman of Penn State Erie's Council of Fellows.
The injection molding company hires most of its new engineers from the university, and the school has very strong ties to local manufacturing, he said.
"It means our people will compete with increasing success in the global economy," Roche said.