OCAST Center to Provide Support to High-Tech Firms

Article excerpt

Oklahoma entrepreneurs long have complained about the lack of local capital and services to get a budding company off the ground.

Help for them could be on the way, in the form of a one-stop cafeteria-like center.

If there is the right kind of interest, in the form of an entity to operate the center, it could become a reality next year.

The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology plans to issue a request for proposals in an effort to find an operator. The request is expected to be sent out within two weeks and proposals are due in probably within 60 to 90 days, said Sheri Stickley, who directs the OCAST initiative.

Stickley, director of Technology Development Programs for the 10- year-old state agency, was instrumental in establishing the Oklahoma Alliance for Manufacturing Excellence, a Tulsa-based statewide group formed to help modernize Oklahoma's manufacturers.

When the center opens, it will provide support for technology- based companies, create partnerships be-tween Oklahoma firms and universities, provide access to early-stage capital, assist in business, organizational management and marketing and assist with legal and intellectual property matters, Stickley said.

"Right now, it's hard to say exactly what the center will provide," she said. "The idea of this came from talking with successful start-up high-technology firms who said it would be nice to have these sorts of things provided by the state."

OCAST has received $900,000 for funding the center in fiscal year 1998.

"We hope that this will become a regular part of our appropriations," she said.

No date has been set for opening the center nor has a decision been made as to where the center will be located.

"We are asking the proposers to tell us where they intend to house their staff," Stickley said. "We also are asking for their anticipated start-up date, their time lines and schedules.

"Obviously, those that can do this expeditiously will be looked at more favorably."

Although there probably isn't one company with the expertise in all these areas, there probably will be "a lot of consortia spring up to make proposals to us," Stickley said.

"There are a lot of consulting companies out there with expertise in certain areas and there are a lot of public economic development agencies," she said. "Probably, there will be a mix of public-private organizations that will submit proposals. …