Updated: 7:25 a.m. Monday, May 21, 2012 | Posted: 2:19 p.m. Saturday, May 19, 2012

Russ Center creates jobs

Business park calls itself ‘technology’s best secret.’ Ohio U. developing site acquired in 2008.


Russ Center creates jobs photo
The Russ Engineering Center is tucked away in a quiet corner of Beavercreek Twp. From afar it may look like a nondescript college campus or even an elementary school. Yet it boasts 93 percent occupancy, well above market averages around here or nationally, and is home to an array of high-tech companies, some doing top-secret work for the Department of Defense, NASA and others. Owned by Ohio University through a limited liability company, the OU Russ College of Engineering's Board of Visitors recently toured the complex and received an update on plans for it. Russ Engineering Center tenant Patrick Hood, CEO, Cornerstone Research Group with some of his company's unmanned air vehicles and self-healing composite materials.

By Thomas Gnau

Staff Writer

BEAVERCREEK TWP., Greene County — In a quiet corner of a rural area lies a high-technology hotbed of companies, many doing secret work for the military or NASA.

It’s called the Russ Research Center, and it calls itself “technology’s best kept secret.”

The business park is closer to The Greene than Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

From a nearby rolling section of Indian Ripple Road, the site appears to be nothing more than a university satellite campus or maybe a scattering of elementary school buildings.

The school-like setting is no accident.

The campus is owned by the Ohio University Foundation and controlled by a limited liability company.

Fritz and Dolores Russ bequeathed the 29-acre property to the university in 2008 as part of a $124 million estate gift.

The Russ center’s unassuming atmosphere is a characteristic tenants say they like.

Patrick Hood, founder and chief executive of the center’s oldest tenant, Cornerstone Research Group (CRG) Inc., called the park “Class B” space. He meant that as a compliment.

“It’s not an efficient use of customers’ money to pay for fuzzy carpets and wide hallways,” Hood said.

The center is 93 percent occupied, said Ray Fogg Jr., of Cleveland’s Fogg Corporate Properties, which acts as the center’s asset manager for Ohio University. That occupancy is well above the national average for such sites, he said.

Since the companies found at Russ Research are private, Ohio University officials declined to estimate the combined value of business conducted there. But they estimated that about 200 people work there each day.

Ohio University has invested about $1.5 million into the campus, including $450,000 recently into a on-site conference center, a building which had been not been used sine the late 1980s. There is talk of new buildings, but nothing is definite at the moment, said Dennis Irwin, dean of Ohio University’s Russ College of Engineering.

“It is certainly possible that we will invest in additional space,” Irwin said.

The university also owns more than 100 undeveloped acres adjacent to the southwest end of the runway at the nearby Green County Lewis Jackson Regional Airport. Irwin said the university foundation believes its airport-area property could be a “possible site for navigation systems testing” and could be held for “aviation-compatible purposes.”

“Since we have an aviation history at OU that dates to World War II, OU would like to ensure that future development in the property we now own through the foundation does not limit airport operations and expansion,” he added.

Cornerstone Research Group’s work space is devoted to just that: work, Hood said. From what he called a “bootstrapper’s perspective,” CRG offices and labs are meant to be places where his 65 employees can roll up sleeves and solve customers’ research problems.

Hood has no interest in expensive leases. “It doesn’t need to be posh,” Hood said of his surroundings.

Ross McNutt, president of the center’s newest tenant, Persistent Surveillance Systems, said he hopes his company never outgrows Russ Research. He has 15 employees at Russ “and growing,” he said. His company also has a subsidiary, MacAir, operating at the nearby county airport, where the company trains flight surgeons for the Air Force.

The producer of airborne surveillance systems has doubled in size every year for the past five years, McNutt said.

“What I need is more employees, more people, more space,” McNutt said.

Fogg thinks the attraction for entrepreneurs like Hood and McNutt is having creative people nearby.

“I think there’s a certain amount of synergy involved,” Fogg said.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2390 or tgnau@DaytonDailyNews.com.


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