UTPA reps visit premier North Carolina research park as model for local effort
Posted: 01/29/2009
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Officials from The University of Texas-Pan American were part of contingent from the Rio South Texas Region who visited the Research Triangle Park in Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina Jan. 27-28 to learn how to best develop a similar technology research and development park planned for a site in McAllen.

"The Research Triangle Park is a model for innovation, education and economic development that has been applied around the world and a significant economic development generator for that region," said Dr. Wendy Lawrence-Fowler, UTPA vice provost for Research and Sponsored Projects. "We wanted to gain knowledge and learn best practices from the premier facility in the country."

A local contingent that included UTPA administrators traveled to the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina recently to learn more about best practices for research park development. Pictured are front left to right Wanda Garza, executive officer for NAAMREI/STC; Jenny Cummings, director of Public Relations and Marketing, STC; Sofia Hernandez, economic development coordinator, Hidalgo County; and Dr. Wendy Lawrence-Fowler, vice provost of Research and Sponsored Projects, UTPA. At rear left to right are Paul Curtin, vice president and director, Hunt Valley Development; Brent branham, deputy city manager, City of McAllen; Mayte Garrett, sales representative, Verde Corporate Realty; Keith Patridge, president and CEO, McAllen Economic Development Corporation; and Dr. Miguel Gonzalez, associate dean, School of Engineering and Computer Science, UTPA. (Photo courtesy of STC).
In its 50th year, the globally renowned Research Triangle Park is the largest and longest continually operating development of its type in the United States. The park covers 7,000 acres with more than 170 companies occupying 22.5 million square feet of developed space and employing over 40,000 people full time. It houses a wide range of companies, from start-ups to multinational research and development corporations which are clustered in a number of industry sectors including information/communications technology, biotechnology and life sciences and environmental sciences. Its largest companies include IBM, GlaxoSmithKline and Cisco.

Fowler and Dr. Miguel Gonzalez, UTPA associate dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science, were part of an 11-member group representing the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research Initiative (NAAMREI), a South Texas network of 60 partners from K-12 and higher education, business, economic development, industry, finance and government focused on offering manufacturers across North America, and globally, access to proprietary, world-class advanced and rapid response manufacturing. UTPA is the leading research institution of NAAMREI.

The Rapid Response Manufacturing Center, located on the UTPA campus, is one of NAAMREI's key strategies, along with workforce development, devoted to developing a world-class advanced manufacturing industry in the Rio South Texas Region.

The group also visited North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus Research Park, located on more than 1,000 acres adjacent to NC State's main campus, where companies, government agencies and university research and academic units work synergistically on technology transfer and innovation. For students and faculty, it provides opportunities for real world teaching and learning.

Fowler said the group additionally got to meet with representatives of the Research Triangle Institute, the Research Triangle Foundation and Dr. John Hardin, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Science and Technology under North Carolina's Secretary of Commerce's office.

"We were able to discuss park development with experts and to think strategically how our research and technology park could develop. We saw how, due to their parks' location, they were able to successfully leverage their research strengths with the region's sector strengths. In the Valley we want to leverage our strengths and resources to enhance manufacturing with a goal of becoming the hub for advanced manufacturing in the state, North America and globally," Fowler said.

For more information on UTPA's Rapid Response Manufacturing Center, go to For information on NAAMREI, go to