July 28, 2014

Elyria
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LCCC breaks ground on technology center

Guests watch as a bulldozer does the official duty at the groundbreaking of the SMART Center on Friday. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop)

Guests watch as a bulldozer does the official duty at the groundbreaking of the SMART Center on Friday. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop)

ELYRIA — There were no ceremonial shovels or politicians turning over scoops of dirt Friday when Lorain County Community College broke ground Friday on the new Richard Desich SMART Commercialization Center for Microsystems.

College President Roy Church instead stood at a podium while a bulldozer moved the first mounds of dirt.

“If you want to be bold, you take bold steps,” Church said as a crowd of more than 300 applauded.

The area where the SMART Center will be built may be just a wooded field now, but when the center opens, slated for 2013, it will be a three-story, 46,270-square-foot facility where companies will make great strides in sensor technology. The facility will serve to bridge the gap between research and discovery on the collegiate level and commercialization in the marketplace.

Sensors are already used in a lot of different ways, from devices implanted in the body for monitoring blood pressure to tiny computers inside automobiles that gauge speed and tire pressure.

“Sensor technology is an estimated $75 billion and growing industry, an industry that could revolutionize life as we know it,” Church said. “We believe the existence of the SMART Center will encourage corporate collaboration and attract businesses to Northeast Ohio and spur the creation of new entrepreneurial companies.”

To get a better understanding of what the building will be, a smaller version is open for business on the third floor of the LCCC Entrepreneurship Innovation Center. That is where technicians and engineers dressed in white jackets and paper shoe covers used high-tech equipment Friday to show off the college’s latest endeavor.

The 1,800 square-foot “clean” room — called that because it has a low level of environmental pollutants such as dust and chemical vapors — was a telling example of what’s to come on the college campus.

The finished SMART Center will have several clean room areas in addition to general lab space and incubation areas. It will connect to the Innovation Center.
Mark Kvamme, chief investment officer and president of JobsOhio, which is the state’s private, nonprofit economic development corporation that replaced the Ohio Department of Development, said at the ceremony that with its manufacturing history Lorain County is uniquely positioned to be a leader in sensor technology.

“Manufacturing is all about sensors now and Ohio is and always has been one of the top manufacturing states in the country,” he said. “In 30 years, people won’t be talking about Silicon Valley. They will be talking about ‘MEMSville’ here in Lorain County.”

MEMSville is a play on Micro Electronic Mechanical Systems, or MEMS, the main process behind sensor packaging, testing and inspection.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, concurred with Kvamme’s sentiment.

“The SMART center will help to make Ohio the go-to place in the United States for sensor commercialization support,” he said. “It makes sense. This is in an important manufacturing area of an important manufacturing state. Ohio is the third leading manufacturing state in the nation.”

Fifteen companies have already signed letters of intent to use the SMART Center within a year of its opening including Beckett Corp., Case Western Reserve University and Emerson Thermodisc.

The center is the result of a $5.5 million Ohio Third Frontier grant administered through Cleveland State University’s Wright Center for Sensor Systems Engineering to outfit the SMART Center. Additional support for the SMART Center comes from federal, state and philanthropic grants and gifts, including the Small Business Administration.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.