Killeen moving to attract new businesses to “innovation district” | Local News

Christel Deskins

A planned “innovation district” will link two institutes of higher learning with downtown Killeen, as the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce continues moving forward with its plan to bring in new businesses and a research park to Killeen. The district is vital in the success of the planned research park, […]

A planned “innovation district” will link two institutes of higher learning with downtown Killeen, as the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce continues moving forward with its plan to bring in new businesses and a research park to Killeen.

The district is vital in the success of the planned research park, the chamber said in a report it released Monday.

The research park is planned for the campus of Texas A&M University-Central Texas, and officials with the chamber and the Killeen Economic Development Corporation have said it is part of the 14 Forward initiative to drive economic growth to Killeen.

Research will be conducted in the fields of alternative energy, cybersecurity, health care and defense, the chamber report said.

Currently, A&M-Central Texas conducts research in those fields, but the research park would expand that role.

Russ Porter, vice president for research and economic development at the university, said via email Thursday that all faculty members must provide teaching, research and community service.

As of right now, there are more than 50 faculty members providing research on research park-related projects.

“And when we count post-docs, graduate students, and undergraduate students, we have over 100 individuals already providing research in the four research park focus areas,” Porter said.

As the research park is developed and research projects expand in the four focus areas, the planning committee will attempt to attract potential tenants.

Porter said the university’s first tenant is currently located in Founder’s Hall.

The university is part of the Association of University Research Parks, which provides guidance for planning and implementation of the park.

Currently, there are two potential locations for the research park on the campus property, Porter said. Those possible locations were revealed at an Aug. 28, 2019, meeting with the university, chamber and Killeen EDC officials.

At the meeting, Porter said the first proposed location is in the southeast corner of the campus near the intersection of Clear Creek Road and State Highway 195.

This location is preferred by the university, Porter said at the time, due to its easy access, gentle slope and high growth business exposure potential.

The other proposed location is on the northwest side of the campus.

Porter said Thursday that as the planning continues, the university will continue to evaluate the best location of the research park on its campus.

He also said university officials are excited about the growth potential from it.

“When the first University Research Park building is built, we anticipate that the collaboration from the Innovation District organizations will attract a significant number of businesses interested in the value of the Central Texas region,” Porter said.

The district will link Central Texas A&M-University, Central Texas College, U.S. Army Operation Test Command at West Fort Hood and downtown Killeen, the Chamber report said.

An innovation district “is a designated zone where public and private interests collaborate to attract existing businesses, entrepreneurs and business startups,” the report said.

The chamber said that historically, the defense industry makes up the largest portion of the workforce in Killeen, and while it is not likely to change, the chamber says it is not good for a city to rely on one industry.

“The Innovation District can help diversify the local economy,” the report said.

Three elements of an innovation district include innovation drivers, such as large firms and entrepreneurs; innovation cultivators, such as job training firms, high schools and community colleges; and neighborhood-building amenities, such as local retail, restaurants and coffee bars, the Chamber said.

New job prospects, an increased tax base and improved quality of life are benefits of an innovation district highlighted by the chamber in its report.

“By reducing vacancy rates, it will help stabilize the City’s tax base while attracting new talent to the region,” the chamber report said.

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