Department of Commerce awards $2.1 million for Phase II of BTR Park

contact: Cheryl Roland
| WMU News
Photo of WMU Business Technology and Research Park.

Aerial view of WMU's Business Technology and Research Park

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration will provide funding needed to begin 2017 infrastructure development for Phase II of Western Michigan University's Business Technology and Research Park.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced the award Sept. 28 for the BTR Park expansion that has been the topic of careful planning and public input since August 2015. The expansion is ultimately expected to attract investments totaling $50 million and create 200 high-tech jobs.

"Our universities are key drivers of innovation, job training and business development," said Pritzker in making the announcement. "EDA's investment to expand Western Michigan University's business and technology park will directly support the region's growing manufacturing and biotechnical industry clusters."

According to Bob Miller, WMU associate vice president for community outreach and WMU point person on BTR Park development, the application for EDA funding was a team effort, bringing together Oshtemo Township, the Kalamazoo County Road Commission and several offices at the University. He notes that infrastructure construction on the 54-acre Colony Farm Orchard property, which is located at the northwest corner of Drake Road and Parkview Avenue, will not begin until sometime next year.

The need for Phase II of the park was triggered by the fact that the original BTR Park, located just south of the Phase II acreage, has no room left for development, with all but one parcel either fully developed or under contract for future development. Additional funding to begin the expansion project will come from Oshtemo Township, the University and, it is hoped, from success with additional grant programs.

Planning

The planning process for Phase II at the Colony Farm Orchard property began last fall and included:

  • Formation of an external advisory committee that included a variety of community stakeholders.
  • Selection of award-winning design firms Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber and O’Boyle, Cowell, Blalock, & Associates to design Phase II.
  • A series of public input sessions held in Oshtemo to encourage the public to provide feedback at each step along the way until a final design plan was developed and publicly unveiled in June.

The original BTR Park was developed as a partnership between the city of Kalamazoo and WMU. It has attracted more than $150 million in investment and generated more than 800 jobs and hundreds of internships for WMU students in 42 private companies located there. The two companies hired to do the design work for Phase II also developed the site plan for Phase I of the BTR Park. That development has been repeatedly honored for its environmentally sensitive design.

While just across the street from the original park's boundaries, the Colony Farm Orchard property is located within the boundaries of Oshtemo Township and will be developed as a partnership between that government entity and the University.

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