Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Centralplex Now Has High Tech Nucleus for Economic Development

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Centralplex Now Has High Tech Nucleus for Economic Development

Article excerpt

In 1985, when we were struggling to acquire the Hitachi Computer Products (America) Inc. plant in Norman, it was easy to get the idea that central Oklahoma virtually was void of high technology.

There was little in the Centralplex outside of the AT&T Technologies Inc. Oklahoma City Works, Magnetic Peripherals (now Control Data), the Oklahoma Health Center and a bunch of ideas that hopefully could be turned into small companies. We needed everything, but mostly we needed sources of capital and a commitment to research and development.

To get that commitment, we needed a partnership among business, education and government - the triumvirate that has worked so well in places like Boston, North Carolina, Texas and the Silicon Valley of California.

Well, maybe it's time to point out that we are making progress, though it has come in bits and pieces, most of themso small that it has been difficult to give us an overall picture. It still is difficult to get a handle on how many companies, operations and employees we have in high technology, because the local industry is splintered and going a variety of directions.

I have been able to find about 30 companies, operations and government agencies that have been either started, expanded or improved in various aspects of high tech during the last three years in the centralplex, and I am certain others have gone unnoticed. This has been achieved despite the capital shortage that remains our biggest problem with struggling financial institutions.

The most obvious, of course, were the recent $929 million defense contract acquired by the AT&T plant, the potential $100 million AT&T contract acquired by Control Data and its subsidiary, Imprimis Technology, and the recently-announced expansion of the Hitachi plant.

However, there have been far more developments, most of them small with great potential.

They include companies such as Master Systems Computer Corp., Corozonix Corp., Intechnica Learning Systems, Control Technology Inc., Ellis Enterprises, Indepth Data Inc., Midwest Fabrication Inc., Gulfstream Corp., Oklahoma Digital Technologies Inc., Premier Computer, BTI Systems Inc., Ted Davis Manufacturing Inc., Innovative Computing Corp., TDK Corp. of Shawnee and Time Management Software Inc. of Stillwater, among others.

We also could include the health center itself and several medical firms such as Oklahoma Healthcare Corp., St. Anthony Hospital and South Community Hospital. There have been major developments by the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air Force Base, the Federal Aviation Administration's Mike Monroney Center, the National Weather Storm Laboratory, University of Oklahoma Weather Center and other government agencies.

Defining high technology is part of the problem, says William J. Nelson, director of business and industrial relations for Oklahoma State University Technical Branch. Small companies are finding niches in various areas ranging from manufacturing to supply, repair and software.

Beyond that, Nelson points out we need a commitment to research and development, which so far is far below that of some other states, as well as an increased commitment to new training programs for business and industry.

Still, it's remarkable just how much of a commitment has been made by entrepreneurs, who must search relentlessly amid constant rejection for risk capital to get their ideas and developments translated into companies and operations. Oklahoma banks, with regulators looking over their shoulders, have been reluctant to take risks, and out-of-state investors remain reluctant to put money into Oklahoma.

You only have to talk to leaders of these firms to find that out.

It also is important to notice that the business-government-education partnership is developing, though slowly. …

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