Bloomington plans high-tech incubator

In a move rich with symbolism for the city, Bloomington, Ind., hopes to convert a site left by a longtime industrial giant into a network-rich complex to attract high-technology businesses.

The industrial site formerly housed the television assembly line of Thomson Consumer Electronics, which, along with several other traditional industries, once served as a mainstay of the Bloomington economy. City hall, for example, is a refurbished furniture building.

With Thomson's departure, Bloomington officials realized they needed to "rethink the economic base" of the city, said Randy Lloyd, executive assistant for economic development. "Our manufacturing base is still important, but we need to think about the next century and what will provide good paying jobs."

Bloomington, like many other U.S. cities, realized that information technology could play a significant role in its future economy. So, working with a private developer, the Patterson Management Group, Bloomington is building a 50,000-square foot "technology incubator."

The new facility will provide the high-speed fiber-optics support required by technology companies, along with some financial incentives that might help convince those companies to set up shop. The site also might house a "point of presence," or POP, which is a regional point of access for the Internet. A local POP will give users in that area fast Internet access.

City officials aim to attract high-technology entrepreneurs, including Internet start-ups, software developers, interactive CD-ROM developers and other players. The city also aims to attract medical/pharmaceutical firms.

A not-for-profit organization will manage the facility, which is expected to open late this year. "We think we can provide a really supportive and unique atmosphere to foster those entrepreneurs," Lloyd said. Bloomington has already had several calls about the project since the mayor first mentioned the idea in his "State of the City" last month.

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