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Tech Park chief, welcome to W.Va.

RUSTY Kruzelock, Ph.D., begins his first day on the job as executive director of the West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston today.

The Tech Park is now owned by the state of West Virginia after The Dow Chemical Co. donated the 258 acres and research labs, pilot plants and office buildings.

The complex was originally built by Union Carbide Corp., beginning in 1949, as the chemical company's research and development site.

It's been said that in the 1960s and early 1970s, the UCC Technical Center had the world's highest concentration of Ph.D.s outside of a university setting. The original Tech Center, along with Union Carbide's offices and chemical manufacturing facilities in South Charleston and Institute, earned the area the name the "Chemical Valley."

But things changed. Union Carbide concentrated its expansions along the Gulf Coast, where raw materials and labor were cheaper, and then internationally, before succumbing to a series of problems.

Dow, which had its own research operations in Midland, Mich., eventually bought Carbide and, finding a large, nearly empty research park expensive to maintain, decided to divest the Tech Center, either by disassembly or donation. Then-Gov. Joe Manchin got involved and Dow donated the property to the state in December 2010.

Kruzelock, who arrives from a Texas biotechnology company, becomes the second Tech Park director, replacing Phillip J. Halstead, Ph.D., who resigned earlier this year.  

The park still holds considerable value, with pilot plants — for innovators to test chemical manufacturing techniques on small to medium scale — and laboratory space. It's also home to the Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center, a nonprofit that offers R&D and technical services, the Kanawha Valley Community & Technical College, and a soon to be completed Advanced Technology Center to be operated by the state's community and technical college system.

With so much invested in the facility, West Virginia needs for Kruzelock to be successful at his new job. Here are some of the things he will need for success:

n A cohesive board of directors that provides guidance and a strategic overall vision of what the Tech Park needs to be — yet stands back and lets him execute.

n Regular constructive feedback from the people he reports to so he can adjust and improve as time goes on.

n An understanding among long-time employees based in the Park that it is now owned by a public entity — the state — and no longer can nor should operate like a single corporate entity.

n Legislative leadership that understands the concept as conceived by Gov. Manchin — that the Park cannot immediately stand on its own — but can eventually thrive given proper initial support.

n An attitude among all parties that truly embraces entrepreneurship and innovation.

Here's wishing Dr. Kruzelock and everyone at the Tech Park great success.


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