Westgate development focus for new Uplands Science and Technology head

·6 min read

May 5—ODON — A familiar face is working in a new place, but he is expected to continue to have an impact on the development of Daviess County.

This week former Daviess County Economic Development Director Bryant Niehoff became the first full-time director for the Uplands Science and Technology Foundation. That job will have Niehoff doing familiar things at a familiar place, the Westgate tech park.

"The focus will be Westgate. Because of the regional focus, Westgate offers to the Uplands, we are looking to continue to drive investment into the tech park and look at ways we can facilitate development, infrastructure development, quality of place to help it realize its full potential as a nationally recognized technology park, defense associated technology park," said Niehoff. "What I will be doing is a lot of the same work but a lot more focused. When I worked in my capacity with the EDC, my job was to try and drive investment toward all of the communities in Daviess County. That leaves you being pulled in a lot of different directions, which is a good thing, but at times you don't get to dive into some projects as much as you would like because there is such a broad area to take care of. In this capacity, I will be able to look exclusively at the technology park which will allow me to take deeper dives with my energy and resources to get things to reach their full potential."

The tech park is in the midst of its largest development ever. A new microchip fabricating facility involving four companies and hundreds of millions of dollars in development is expected to add at least 300 new high-paying jobs to the area. Niehoff believes that may just be the beginning of a new era at the park.

"The projects, because of all of the energy behind the Chips and Science Act, because of the exceptional leadership of Crane in driving these technologies forward and driving them to our region for the warfighter, are continuing to grow and evolve. That is tremendous for Daviess County and is setting the stage for more success to come," said Niehoff. "I have a feeling there is a lot more coming. That is part of what makes this new job exciting and a little daunting. I will be working very closely with Daviess County, with Greene and Martin County, in this new role. I will also be working more with ROI, the Navy developers, Radius. I'll be focusing on Westgate and how we realize its full potential. I am excited to be in the midst of it."

Niehoff says it appears that as WestGate One, the micro processing chip builder project, develops, that the entire tech park may begin to see a shift more toward building things as opposed to the design and engineering facilities that have been the focal point of the tech park since it opened.

"There is a bit of a transition taking place at Westgate. The tech park has developed as a traditional business office park in a lot of ways. Now this fab is bringing something different to the park," he said. "I see more of this building technical things coming to the techpark in the future. It will be integrated in with what we currently have. We are looking at comparable developments where there is high tech manufacturing, engineering services, this innovation side of things in conjunction with the institutional parts, all of that coming together."

For USTF and other economic development groups that means figuring out what will be the best way to get the most out of the tech park.

"This is what we are looking at. What does this next phase of Westgate look like? The answer seems to be all of the above which opens a lot of opportunities for us. It also creates some challenges on how you get all of that tied together. That is where USTF will come in and work with our many partners and figure out how we accommodate all these uses and how we get it to work together," said Niehoff. "We have watched Westgate grow and develop over the years. It's biggest opportunities come from being located right next to the base and spanning Martin, Daviess and Greene Counties. The regionalism is at the heart and core of what Westgate is. That creates a huge opportunity and it is one of Westgate's biggest competitive advantages."

The regionalism of the tech park can also produce some specific challenges in terms of keeping all three counties and their development arms moving in the same direction.

"It also presents challenges from the standpoint that there are three different government entities. That means coordinating with the base, the three economic development organizations and all of that coming together," said Niehoff. "USTF is in a position to be a unified front for the three counties to develop the tech park in concert with one another. It can be a single point of contact to help them coordinate their efforts."

Those challenges can include a wide range of possibilities that fall under the category of yet to be determined.

"In all the time I have worked with the tech park a big part of the conversation was how do you create this live, work, play environment at Westgate. Right now, the work component is firing on all cylinders. There are 875 high tech, high wage jobs at the tech park. There will be another 300 to 400 jobs coming with this chips development and that could become even larger. The work component, that's moving along," said Niehoff. "Live and play, you have Westscot the new housing development that is moving along well with an opportunity to grow. There are other residential opportunities we are exploring. The play component, is there an opportunity for restaurants. What about retail, amenities, is there a need for something like the commons. At Westgate you are building it from nothing, from scratch. Infrastructure is going to be an ongoing challenge."

Development at Westgate so far has mostly been along a couple of miles of county roads. Much of the Martin County area is already full. Greene County is larger but still developing.

Daviess County though has hundreds of acres of land available.

"The Daviess County Economic Development Foundation does own land up there and the Daviess County Redevelopment Commission owns around 260 acres up there. There is plenty of room to grow. That is just in Daviess County. There is also Greene and Martin County up there that could make land available," said Niehoff. "The tech park in terms of land area is very large."

The tech park and USTF is preparing to embark on its biggest step ever. The construction of WestGate One will start this summer and is due to be completed in 18 months.

The project is already 50% bigger than it was originally proposed to be and developers have hinted that the fab facility may well be just the beginning of an exciting time for officials in Daviess, Martin, and Greene County, the Navy and organizations like Radius and Uplands Science and Technology Foundation in the future.