Special to The Journal
What a difference three years make.
The Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park is 97% full, brings in $3.3 million and is paying off its debt.
In October 2012, the park’s board of directors told Lambton County Council they were in a tough spot. Their biggest renter – a call center – was moving out leaving more than half the building empty and with just over $1 million in revenue coming in.
The board made some staffing changes and hired a new executive director. And it asked the county to carry its debt until things turned around. Some politicians wondered if was a wise investment, but the agreed to the plan and began making payments the outstanding $14 million debt.
Tom Strifler, executive director of the research park, said the Sarnia-Lambton politicians’ leap of faith has paid off.
Today, the building is 97% occupied, 85% of it by companies doing research and attempting to get new products to market.
Lab space at the Commercialization Centre is now full.
Revenue has climbed to $3.3 million annually and is projected to reach $3.6 million in 2016. And the county recently approved a plan that will see The Research Park begin paying down its own debt again.
“We will be paying our total expenses and our total debt load, which will be a huge milestone,” Strifler says. “We are on track to be self-sustaining, not just for the short term but for the long-term.”
The Park also learned recently it will become the home of an entrepreneurship centre called Start-Up Sarnia.
The Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park, created in 2003, was also recently ranked the fifth best performing business incubator in North America, up from seventh place a year ago.