By: Dale King Contributing Writer
The Research Park at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton “continues to expand its reach and influence into the South Florida community by fostering innovation and supporting technology business,” the park’s president and CEO, Andrew Duffell, told members and guests at the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce breakfast last month.
That somewhat quick assessment of the park’s purpose actually translates to big dollars and significant impact on the university campus and in the community.
In fact, the research park released its 2016 report during the breakfast and, at the same time, placed the report up on its website.
The end-of-year summation listed the following:
• Overall economic impact: $643.55 million, up 243 percent from 2011 when Duffell became the top executive.
• Total jobs (direct and indirect), 3,441, up from 1,558 in 2011.
• Private investment secured by companies in the park, $30.1 million. Excluding Magic Leap in 2016, 10 percent of all venture capital raised in Florida was done by Research Park companies.
• Average salary, $57,739, 27 percent higher than the Palm Beach County average; 34 percent higher than the average salary in Broward County.
“We’re encouraged by the momentum the Research Park is building, a result of our incorporating and encouraging interactions between our companies, mentors, investors, service providers, government entities, larger corporations as well as FAU’s talent pool.”
He said the Research Park continues the tradition of inquiry long associated with the property. The facility covers 70 acres and consists of 38 companies in 11 buildings, all located on what in the 1940s was the Army Airfield where the U.S. Army tested radar. It became IBM land in the 1970s and 1980s, and the personal computer was developed on site. Half the companies currently in the park are associated with health technology and have ties to the medical and nursing schools on the FAU campus.
Duffell kept the early morning session at the Via Mizner Country Club light. Noting his English accent, he joked: “We’re here to take the Colonies back.”
He also introduced Simon Kay, president of Aerospace Technologies Group, a company in the Research Park. Pointing out that Kay is also an import from the UK, he said, “Welcome to the second British invasion.”
Kay said his firm was founded in 1998 by a man who designed airplane interiors. ATG developed a two-layer shade for airplane windows in 2001 and has continued improving on product usage, quality and quality over the years. The firm now has 160 employees of 18 different nationalities who speak 24 languages. Jackie Autry, widow of former singer and cowboy actor turned baseball team owner Gene Autry, is now its majority stock holder.
He said the company is currently working on a private sleeping enclosure for couples traveling first class on commercial airliners. “We are also work on something to clean airplane air. We will reach 200 employees in the next few years.”
During his address to a near-capacity crowd, Duffell said the Research Park has three purposes: “To facilitate research and development for FAU, to foster economic development in Palm Beach and Broward counties and to broaden the economic base” for the two counties.
Discussing 2017 and the future, he said the facility located at the Spanish River Boulevard entrance to FAU where a new interchange with I-95 is being built, the CEO said the park “aims to create net new jobs, to bring new revenue and add new ideas and intellectual properties.” The plan, he said, simply, is “to grow the pie” and “to keep our ties with FAU to make it a stronger research university.”
“It is cheaper and more lucrative,” he noted, “to grow our companies than it is to draw them from elsewhere.”
By: Dale King Contributing Writer