The Ardmore Development Authority offers an aggressive incentive program that dovetails perfectly with Oklahoma's statewide strategy to increase the state's share of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II awards.
The Ardmore Development Authority is targeting out-of-state companies that have been granted a Phase I SBIR award and plan to apply for a Phase II award, and offering incentives to move to Ardmore. The program focuses on industries that have a synergy with sectors and businesses that already are strong in the region — sensors, bioenergy, plant biology and aerospace.
“We want to grow technology companies,” said Wes Stucky, Ardmore Development Authority president and CEO. “We have set aside funding — up to $50,000 per company — to use as a bonus in cash to nurture these businesses along while they are applying for their Phase II.”
The requirements of the Ardmore program are rigorous, and companies are obligated to hire an expert consultant to develop the SBIR Phase II proposal.
“Many of these technology companies feed off of one another, so having companies come here that have some commonality is good,” Stucky said. “We'd like to do 10 deals and then evaluate the program.”
One such company, Lightwave Photonics Inc. (LPI), is moving to Ardmore from Minnesota. LPI has an association with Amethyst Research Inc., an Ardmore-based startup developing advanced infrared technology for “night vision” imagers.
“LPI is a young company with patents that has received SBIR I grants and made great breakthroughs in LED technology,” Stucky said. “They have sold product to a company in Germany, and this incentive is going to help them fill that order and get over their current hump.”
The Ardmore Development Authority also is adding critical manufacturing equipment (donated or purchased used) to its soon-to-be completed business incubator in Ardmore Technology Park.
“We have young companies here that need some equipment that they couldn't possibly afford,” Stucky said.
“So, instead of investing in CDs and earning a half-percent interest, we decided to buy a Riber MBE system, a chemical vapor deposition system and an X-ray diffraction system, and charge a fee for use.”
Stucky says you have to push the envelope.
“You can't do things the way they've always been done. The equipment, the synergy with other companies, and the incentive bonus are attracting technology firms. We think this is going to work,” he said.
The Ardmore Development Authority has developed an exciting strategy to grow its economy. It is an excellent model for locally supported economic development.
Rex Smitherman is interim president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state's technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Smitherman at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
DID YOU KNOW?
The SBIR program averages seven patents per day and engages more than 400,000 scientists and engineers.