Officials from the UVI Research and Technology Park will report on progress of the construction of its new facility when the University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees meets Saturday morning at the school’s St Croix campus.
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in the Great Hall.
Work on the $13 million project began at the beginning of September, according to UVI RT Park Executive Director David Zumwalt. There wasn’t a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony, he said, but "The project is under way."
Anyone driving by or onto the campus will have seen the signs of construction – the fencing surrounding the 10-acres site, the trailers, excavation equipment and dump trucks driving on and off into traffic on Queen Mary Highway.
Construction is expected to take about 18 months and will be completed in early 2013. When it’s done, the project will be a two-story, roughly 18,000-square-foot building near the main campus entrance. The RT Park Corporation leases the property from the university.
Aireko Construction, a 45-year-old company from Puerto Rico, is the prime contractor, and is using many St. Croix subcontractors, according to Denise Krug, the deputy director of the UVI RT Park.
The Research and Technology Park recruits and offers services to knowledge-based businesses locating in the territory. Zumwalt rejected the word "incubator," saying it suggests something that needs to be sustained or it will die on its own. Instead, he said the RT Park serves as "an accelerator," helping businesses get growing faster.
The RT Park is also part of the territory’s economic development mission, offering tax incentives directly to knowledge-based businesses.
"It’s all about trying to move the needle on the Virgin Islands’ economy," he said.
While the construction of the building is a milestone for the RT Park, which was created by the V.I. Senate in 2002, a tangible sign of the organization’s progress, it’s not, actually
"The RT Park building serves a very specific purpose," Zumwalt said. "But the park’s tenants can be and are anywhere in the USVI."
The RT Park has had a significant presence in the Global Crossing facility on St. Croix and the ATT facility on St. Thomas.
"All of our tenants utilize those assets," Zumwalt said.
The new building will not necessarily be limited to RT Park clients, Zumwalt said, nor will all clients be required to move there.
"The same level of activity you see tangibly now [in the construction] has been going on inside Global Crossing and ATT all along," the executive director said.
RT Park Corp. has admitted 10 tenants who have gone all the way through the application process and approval by the board. They now average about six applications a year, Zumwalt added.
"That we can continue to increase in a down economy, I’m pleased," he said.
The RT Park is updating its website, at www.uvirtpark.com, to provide ongoing details on the sustainable-design, “green” certified building.