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Multi-million dollar project to turn Oxford into silicon prairie

By Chris Curme
On March 18, 2014

Oxford may become the silicon prairie as a built-to-suit technology park has been proposed just outside of Miami University. The Miami Heritage Technology Park, represented by CBRE, is proposed on 74 acres at the intersection of Oxford Trenton Road (HWY 73) and Oxford Milford Road.

Mike McMillan is vice president within the CBRE data center solutions group based in Cincinnati. McMillan is the project's lead marketing representative, and said the tech park is the brainchild of an Oxford resident.

"Todd Dockum is a Miami alumnus and the owner of the 74 acres," McMillan said. "He has been working on this project for several years. He's been interested in this technology park supporting the university."

According to McMillan, Dockum worked with the state of Ohio to secure $3.5 million in funding for the development of the park. The money will be spent on infrastructure and utilities when a tenant builds the first structure.

"[The project must be] first funded by businesses that have a vested interest in having this type of an environment, and all the high value-added from next door," McMillan said.

Lisa Dankovich is Miami's liaison to the Regional Economic Development Initiative (REDI), a subsidiary of the Cincinnati USA Chamber of Commerce. According to Dankovich, their goal is to attract and retain businesses in the greater Cincinnati region.

"The university is supportive of the tech park, and there is some type of informal agreement," Dankovich said. "But in order for the project to be successful, [Dockum] has to find a $3 million match to the state grant [from a private firm]."

Similar projects usually take 21 months, according to McMillan, but at least six months of work has already been done. Initial planning included rezoning the lot, which was originally farmland.

"It's now an extension of the City of Oxford," McMillan said. "It wasn't before."

According to McMillan, the size and scope of the development depends on firms investing in space.

"It clearly is a $40 to $200 million total development-if you add up all the different buildings," McMillan said. "[We have] 16 buildings as examples. It depends what businesses come to the table and value it."

McMillan said firms early to participate will mutually benefit with the tech park, as they essentially dictate the area's construction and evolution. Beyond this symbiotic relationship is that between the park and Miami, its neighbor.

"[Tenants] can bring in students as interns," McMillan said. "It's a way for them to collaborate with the university, and get access to smart students."

"Wouldn't you like to have a location right next door?" is an alluring question to firms that already substantially work with the university and Miami students, McMillan said.

While McMillan emphasized the potential of the tech park as an incubator for small entrepreneurial businesses and startups, he said the project is flexible, and could accommodate many different businesses that would value the partnership with Miami and Oxford community. One proposed building is a data center, appealing to McMillan's experience in the technology sector.

"The labor force [in Oxford] is much more college educated [than the norm]," McMillan said. "[Currently], there are a lot of well-educated people in Oxford whose employment opportunities are to work at Miami or commute to Cincinnati."

According to a CBRE brochure, 51 percent of Oxfordians possess college degrees. Other attractive local features cited are a power cost 28 percent below the state average and, again, the proximity to Miami: an "innovation center." The project's tagline is, "Bringing innovation to market."

"[We aim to] keep people in the Oxford area," McMillan said. "Oxford is a great place to grow up with a family. Talawanda High School is top notch in the state. It'll help the university bring up employment for graduating seniors."

McMillan said the quality of labor in Oxford is relatively cheap, compared to more urban markets.

"There are going to be more intern opportunities, more fulltime hire opportunities... to bring the fantastic innovating ideas [at Miami] to new businesses," McMillan said. "That'll take us several years. Now, we ask who's going to be that anchor tenant: who agrees with that vision?"

President David Hodge is aware of the project, according to McMillan, and supports it.

"[Hodge] understands the value of things around Miami."

Vines design that we had last year due to its popularity, and we created a monogram shirt as well," said junior Molly Dougherty, who is selling shirts with two of her friends this year. "We think a lot about common brands on campus and current trends in pop culture; we want something that is relevant to students but also unique to us from other sellers."

Conflicts arise between distributors since many come up with similar ideas based off the same pop culture events and common brands.

"I haven't personally had anyone say that we stole their design, but a lot of the designs are based on ones from years past," Dougherty said. "The sellers have designs that are similar and overlap topics because we base them off the same brands and pop culture. If our designs are considered copies, we definitely don't mean them to be. It's competitive to sell shirts and it doesn't do anything for us to sell the same thing as someone else."

Other distributors were in agreement on the similarity of designs.

"We had a great set of options and came up with all our own ideas," senior John Claffy said. "A couple seemed to have similar themes to others companies but it was fine because they still sold."

Claffy, along with fellow seniors Mike Norgard and Cole Tyman, sold over 300 shirts through Greenest Beer Company. They were able to offer their buyers a discount as a way to attract more business.

"I think what set us apart from other companies was the relationship we had with the T-shirt company which allowed us to not have any overhead.," Claffy said.

Dougherty's company, www.greenbeerdaymiami.com, offered several designs that were available on tank tops, T-shirts, long sleeve T-shirts, and sweatshirts. Their personal designs sold over 400 shirts, but she said with outside campaigns through clubs and organizations they sold well over 500.

"Since we work through University Tees, we don't sell our shirts for profit. But if the clubs that buy through us, such as College Republicans, want to raise the shirt price and make a profit, they can do that," Dougherty said.

University Tees, a national company that allows students to create and sell custom T-shirts, was founded by Miami University graduate Nick Dadas when he was a junior here in 2004. Dadas was inspired to create the company when he saw how greatly the campus needed a more organized T-shirt business, especially when it came to Green Beer Day. Now the company is used all over the country by schools and organizations.

"Since University Tees was founded here and supposedly inspired by Green Beer Day, they're a great company to work for," Dougherty said. "They recruit college students across the country to sell shirts on campuses, and since there is always someone there who has been working for awhile you never feel inexperienced or unorganized."


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