WMU News

Announcements pave way for BTR growth

July 27, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Announcements made July 18 and 19 mean WMU's Business Technology and Research Park is assured both timely infrastructure development and the addition of another private-sector partner to its list of future tenants.

An official from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. traveled to campus July 18 to announce a $500,000 infrastructure development grant for the Kalamazoo SmartZone, one of 11 economic development zones around the state identified by the MEDC earlier this year. The grant is just one of six awarded around the state and will be used for road and sewer infrastructure development at the BTR Park, which is the main feature of the Kalamazoo SmartZone.

The following day, officials from Southwest Michigan First, Kalamazoo's economic development organization, held a news conference in Haenicke Hall to announce Esperion Therapeutics Inc. of Ann Arbor will expand its operations by becoming the first tenant of the new Southwest Michigan Innovation Center, a life sciences business incubator temporarily housed in WMU's McCracken Hall. Esperion intends to relocate next year when Southwest Michigan First builds a permanent site for the Innovation Center at the BTR Park next year.

Both developments will have a major impact on the BTR Park's development. The infrastructure funds from the state will pay for a portion of the road, water and sewer extensions within the park. The funding comes from Michigan's Core Communities Initiative, which is designed to help communities compete for economic development projects through the development of business parks and mixed-use projects in central cities.

"We are planning to 'brand' the state of Michigan as a high-tech state. And the 11 SmartZones we have designated hopefully will become magnets for new businesses that want to come into Michigan," said John Czarnecki, MEDC's vice president for community services. "I am here to day to provide a $500,000 check from the Core Communities Fund to help this vision of the SmartZone move forward."

The decision by Esperion to locate its satellite lab in Kalamazoo puts renewed focus on Kalamazoo and the BTR Park as a prime location for life sciences research and development. Esperion, a biopharmaceutical company formed in 1998, focuses on the discovery and development of novel therapeutic compounds for the treatment of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders such as high cholesterol. The company intends to commercialize a therapy based on the body's use of high-density lipoprotein or HDL.

Esperion's new Kalamazoo satellite lab will house the firm's chemistry group, initially comprised of five researchers. After moving to the new state-of-the-art facility that will be built to house it and similar companies in the BTR Park, Esperion expects its Kalamazoo operation to grow to include some 20 researchers.

Esperion President and CEO Roger S. Newton told those attending the July 19 announcement that his firm had investigated locations in California, Texas, Florida and a number of other location in Michigan before settling on Kalamazoo.

"Kalamazoo has a skilled life sciences industry, wonderful academic institutions and a great entrepreneurial spirit, and we intend to utilize these as well as become a prominent member of the business community," said Newton.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
616 387-8400