Rarely does a government entity decide to become smaller so that it can become more effective. But that is exactly what Innovation Park did.
Innovation Park is the areas university-based research park that is overseen by the Leon County Research and Development Authority (the Authority).Among the partnerships highly valued by the Authority are those with Florida State University, Florida A & M University, and Tallahassee Community College, as well as those with governmental and industrial sector representatives.
The Authority is governed by a nine-member Board of Governors that includes appointees from Leon County (five appointees), the City of Tallahassee (one appointee), Florida State University (one appointee), Florida A & M University, (one appointee) and Tallahassee Community College (one appointee).
Unfortunately, until recently, the Park has been in the news for all the wrong reasons -internal squabbles, financial irregularities, and the lost of a well respected Director.
But over the last three years, the Board of Governors have quietly gone about their business of trying to reset the path of the Park and put more focus on executing their mission.
The mission of the Innovation Park is to work in partnership with Tallahassee Community College, Florida A&M University and Florida State University to promote scientific research and development activities and to foster economic development and broaden the economic base of Leon County.But before the Board could focus on the mission, years of questionable management and the lack of a cohesive strategic approach had to be addressed.
Excerpts from LCRDA Memorandum of Understanding
III. Mission Statement
The Parties to this MOU affirm a common mission to promote scientific research and development and to foster economic development through incubating start-up businesses, facilitating community outreach to engage existing businesses and recruiting businesses to Leon County that arise from or are connected to specific research areas sponsored by the Universities or areas articulated in the LCRDA’s Strategic Plan. The shared goal of the parties is for Innovation Park’s common campus to create an environment that fosters ideas and innovations which translate into commercial application. The parties recognize that Innovation Park provides access to the development of talent creativity, and scientific research. The parties agree that the continued effective operation of Innovation Park is essential to the mission of the Parties.
The restructuring plan for Innovation Park as outlined herein will allow: (1) LCRDA to better focus on the economic development at Innovation Park; (2) FSU and FAMU to have control over the land and buildings they are currently leasing, using or occupying in some capacity; and (3) each Party to develop additional parcels so that they can meet their individual needs while continuing to contribute to economic development a Innovation Park. The properties described herein are under a master lease from the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund (hereinafter “BTIITF”) to the LCRDA that expires in 2074.
Getting “the house” in order required the development of more effective internal controls, a new set of bylaws and taking an inventory of the assets and evaluating how the assets helped or hindered the mission of the Park.
To that end, the Board appointed a working group of “outsiders” that took a look and found an organization in financial straits with no real plan to make money in the future.The working group also found that much of what the Park was doing was managing property, which was not a financially lucrative and not consistent with the mission.
Given these findings the Board, under the leadership of County Commissioner Kristin Dozier, who became Chair of the LCRDA in September, 2012, took the bold step of becoming smaller and less bureaucratic by proposing that FSU and FAMU take control of a portion of land they could develop when needed and a number of buildings they could use to expand. The proposal is under review at the Department of Environmental Protection and approval is expected in weeks.
County Commissioner Kristin Dozier told Tallahassee Reports the new approach “will allow the Board to focus on the main mission of Innovation.”
Moving forward, the Board has adopted a three prong approach to putting Innovation Park back on the path to fulfilling its mission.First, Innovation Park will focus on specific research areas that are actively being pursued by the Park’s partners. These areas include Energy, Materials, Aerospace, Bio-Tech, and Bio-Med.
Second, the Park will contract with the EDC to more aggressively market the opportunities available in these research areas to private sector companies and public sector organizations.
And third, the Board will focus on creating a “campus feel” in and around Innovation Park so that the network of building are part of a structure that is connected and can provide
The changes implemented by the LCRDA come at a critical time in the economic development future of Leon County. The Blueprint Sales Tax extension, for the first time, is scheduled to include money for economic development projects and FSU has committed over $200 million for a project called the Madison Mile.
It is Chair Dozier’s hope that the changes will allow Innovation Park to begin to contribute, in a very meaningful way, to the economic development of our community.