Johnson serves as a permanent trustee, and Horner serves on a committee that takes care of the finances within the foundation.
In the early 1980s, the state granted more than 600 acres of land and $20 million to develop a business park that would focus on research, scientific, academic and related organizations. Later, more land was purchased in Beavercreek to bring the total to 1,250 acres — that land does not have a deed restriction that the original land has, which stipulates what type of company can acquire residence within the park.
The original purpose was to promote scientific and technology-based work within higher education while creating a tighter knit community of local universities.
The recession impacted the economic health of the park, and some tenants moved out of the buildings. Companies that reside in the business park now include Reynolds and Reynolds Co., Kodak, Wright State University Center for Global Health Systems, Management and Policy.
The foundation functions in four different capacities — as it has since its inception, Johnson said. The foundation serves as a commercial building owner and manager. It serves as the head of a property owners association, and oversees title to hundreds of undeveloped land. And it works as a commercial real estate developer.
“It’s been a struggle for us to continue with that same business model that we were founded under,” Johnson said.
The business model no longer works because the volume of undeveloped land sales is too small, the occupancy of the foundation-owned buildings is too low, and operational expenses are too high, Horner and Johnson explained.
“It’s not core to our mission,” Horner said. “Again, it’s just not a business a university should be in anymore.”
He said the universities involved have all started developing land and business in different ways. The institutions have also formed individual institutes and STEM-related initiatives, which made some of the foundation’s mission obsolete.
WSU, UD and Sinclair presidents are permanent Class A trustees, and Johnson said they don’t see the need for presidents to be required leaders of the foundation. It would require state action to officially take the presidents off the board.
“We said to each other, ‘You know, we don’t really want to do this, but the law says we have to,’” Johnson said.
Johnson said the park is not going to close, but they are looking to find a new owner for the existing land and property. Now, the foundation has to discuss the deed restrictions with local lawmakers — so that a future businesses or organizations wouldn’t necessarily have to be STEM-related.
Horner said the foundation is early in the process of any changes to leadership, or the future of the business park.
“It’s got a good future ahead of it, but we don’t see why we have to shepard it,” Johnson said.
BY THE NUMBERS:
1,250: total acres in the park
$410 million: amount of capital investment in park development
22: total buildings in the park
450: total acres developed in the park
4,000+: workers in the park at various companies.