What a difference three years make.
Western’s Sarnia-Lambton Research Park is 97 per cent full bringing in $3.3 million to cover its own expenses and now paying off its own debt.
In October 2012, the board of directors came to Lambton County Council saying they were in a tough spot. Their biggest renter – a call center – was moving out leaving more than half the building empty and just over $1 million in revenue coming in.
The board made some changes to staffing and hired a new executive director. It also asked the county to carry its debt until it could turn things around. Some politicians wondered if they were making a wise investment, but the agreed to the plan and started making payments for the outstanding $14 million.
Recently Tom Strifler, executive director of the research park, told Sarnia-Lambton politicians their leap of faith has paid off.
Today, 97 per cent of the building is occupied – 85 per cent of it by companies doing research and trying to get new projects to market.
Revenue has climbed to $3.3 million and is projected to reach $3.6 million in 2016. And county council recently approved a plan to see The Research Park start paying its own debt again.
“We will be paying our total expenses and our total debt load which will be a huge milestone,” Strifler says. “We are on track to be self sustaining not just for the short term but for the long-term.”
And the center is receiving attention for its turn around – it was ranked as the 22nd best research park in the world – the third best in Canada – in the 2014 list of University Business Incubators.