Nestled in the middle of west Kentucky, a new technology park is being developed. While it sounds simple, the park has lofty goals to create an environment that cultivates technological and entrepreneurial innovation, attract cutting edge businesses to west Kentucky, and encourage research and education.
Last month, we began a series in this column highlighting efforts underway across west Kentucky that are trying to grow and develop the technology ecosystem in our region. These efforts are growing opportunities, fostering start-up businesses, encouraging entrepreneurship and increasing our technology talent. This month, we look at the WK&T Technology Park located in Mayfield.
WK&T, a telecommunications cooperative based in Mayfield, offers gigabit broadband Internet service to all of its member customers. Utilizing a massive infrastructure investment made over the years, WK&T took the next step to support technology development in the west Kentucky in 2016, by purchasing Mid-Continent University campus with more than 100,000 square feet of floor space. The goal is redeveloping it into one of the region’s premiere locations for cutting-edge companies and developing technology businesses alike by offering services such as high-speed fiber internet and a vibrant community of collaborators.
The vision of the WK&T Tech Park is to combine high tech companies, research opportunities, education and business incubators on a green campus with exercise, lodging and dining options.
These goals are very lofty. If you are like me when I first found out about the project, several questions are popping in your mind. How can they do this? Why in Mayfield? What will the impact be? Why does it matter to you? I will try to briefly tackle these questions.
The total cost of the project is more than $60 million funded through performance-based economic incentives called Tax Incremental Financing (TIF). This funding will be invested back into the Tech Park to upgrade and enhance it, turning it into a true state-of-the-art technology park. These upgrades include creating a solar farm in order to produce enough green energy to power the entire Tech Park, which is a feature many technology companies, like Amazon, look for when deciding to locate in a new site.
Even though west Kentucky and Mayfield aren’t the first locations when you think about technology parks, west Kentucky does happen to be in a great location and ripe for development. We have some traditional economic development drivers going for us in our region such as low labor costs. The development of I-69 through our region will enhance the transportation and logistics opportunities with other regions. When coupled with our inland waterways and our central location to much of the Midwest, South and East Coast, there are positive traits about our region.
However, the key advantage and the reason that west Kentucky is the perfect place for this development is the previously mentioned fiber infrastructure already in place. WK&T installed fiber optic cables to every endpoint in its territory, along with beefing up the backhaul lines to the Internet exchange connection points. When coupled with the additional enhancements being undertaken, WK&T Tech Park will offer redundant Internet broadband service comparable to most areas across the country and globe. Yes, in west Kentucky, we will be able to offer the same services that larger communities can.
So, the last question is how does the development of the tech park impact you or your existing business. When successful, the impact to the overall region will be phenomenal. The project would have an impact of 900 direct jobs and 400 indirect jobs, with an estimated payroll of $60 million annually.
Additionally, the project would provide an economic impact of more than $150 million annually to the region and state. Among these 900 direct jobs, 800 could be technology-related jobs.
In addition to the supporting businesses locating at the tech park, a goal of WK&T is to support those new startup businesses and those that could be assisted through a business incubator.
Many new businesses starting today are very reliant on the Internet and have a need for fast and reliable Internet service.
For those companies that need a little extra support to get started or those that need great access to the Internet, the tech park may be a great resource for your business.
A key piece of growing the technology ecosystem necessary to support technology development in west Kentucky is having a large number in our technology workforce.
The WK&T Tech Park will dramatically increase the number of tech workers making it easier for your business to find technology workers, increase the number of businesses and ultimately the opportunities for our region.
While there is a lot of work and development to go, the WK&T Tech Park will provide great opportunities and help our region for generations to come.
If you want to learn more, visit www.wkttechpark.com.
Michael Ramage is the director of the Center for Telecommunications Systems Management (CTSM) at Murray State University and serves as the president of the Technology Council of West Kentucky. He can be reached at [email protected] or 270-809-3987.
Originally published in the Four Rivers Business Journal and available at http://www.paducahsun.com/business/journal/mayfield-tech-park-place-to-innovate/article_22e2f9a5-85b0-5d97-9367-53465af5e3a9.html