Innovative Flagship Enterprise Center Rises to Create Opportunities
The new $15 million Purdue Polytechnic Anderson will bring together students, entrepreneurs and faculty in one building where they can learn, collaborate, try out new ideas, and design and create prototypes.
"It's been a collaborative project," says Chuck Staley, CEO of the Flagship Enterprise Center in Anderson, Indiana. "Students will work with real businesses in a real-time environment. What you learn in the academic setting gets translated into maker spaces where you can tinker and work on projects. At the other end of the building is a microfactory, with real companies that want to be part of the program."
The Flagship Enterprise Center, Purdue University, the city of Anderson, the Anderson Innovation Center, the Corporation for Economic Development and Anderson University collaborated to develop the 94,000-square-foot polytech campus on a brownfield site: the abandoned, former location of General Motors Plant 3. The campus sits on about 11 acres at the entry to a 130-acre business park and is owned by the Flagship Enterprise Center. Purdue will be the principal tenant.
"The engineering heritage of Anderson is taking us into a new age," Staley says.
The Flagship Enterprise Center opened in May 2005, as a partnership between Anderson University and the city of Anderson, and has assisted in the creation of 150 companies, 20 of them international, and nearly 5,000 jobs. Many jobs are advanced engineering and high-tech jobs. The center aims to transform the community into a destination of choice for entrepreneurial businesses that will create new companies and jobs, leading to economic renewal and diversity.
"The biggest challenge is a technically qualified workforce prepared for 21st century business and manufacturing," Staley says. "To meet this challenge, we decided to partner with Purdue Polytechnic to create a workforce for high-tech companies."
The city and the Anderson Economic Development Commission approved selling bonds to finance construction.
Purdue Polytechnic, the applied engineering side of Purdue, anticipates educating 300 to 500 students at the campus. That includes adult learners.
"Our current space in Anderson is inadequate," says Corey Sharp, Director of Purdue Polytechnic Anderson. "Our curriculum requires more project-based learning and learning by doing. Students are learning with their hands, developing products, creating innovation. You have to have rooms with equipment that facilitate that."
A Unique Campus
Staley calls the campus' design the most interesting aspect of the project.
"It was designed to look edgy," Staley says. "The exterior makes a statement, both from the materials and the orientation."
Mike Montgomery with krM Architecture and Jesse J. Wilkerson & Associates, both in Anderson, designed an irregularly shaped building and positioned it on the triangular site to be as close to the main road as possible.
"So it would be a beacon for good things going on in Anderson," Montgomery says.
The interior follows the same theme, an industrial look, with polished concrete and hard textures. The front of the building includes two stories of classrooms, laboratories and a 12,000-square-foot maker space with room for multiple students to be working on different projects. In these spaces students can try out their inventions. This area will be outfitted with computer numerical control equipment to cut metal, wood or plastic; 3-D printers; and welding and fabrication equipment.
"A student can have an idea of a product, go through the design process and develop prototypes," Sharp says. "In the design of the building, we were forward thinking. We looked at universities and laboratories on the East and West Coast, and even Google."
It also features a gallery space that can seat about 200 and will be used to introduce student projects, new products or display success stories. It also will highlight the history of the area.
"As you enter this new business park, the first thing you see is student work and other interesting objects in the glass tip of the building," Montgomery explains.
The back of the building features a manufacturing facility where real companies, entrepreneurs and small organizations, will create products. Once the companies become established, they will likely move out and another fledgling firm can move in. This area is taller than the two-story front building and has a 32-foot clear span.
"Our students can learn and become an entrepreneur themselves or we are matching them with employers," Sharp adds.
An open area between the classroom and the manufacturing incubator site provides a space for informal collaboration. They will be able to grab a cup of coffee and chat.
"This all occurs under one roof, which makes it extremely unique," Staley says. "It's going to be a place where new companies are started and creativity is paramount."
The exterior features glass with visible support columns and beams.
"For a facility in the Midwest, it's new and different," Sharp says. "The way we have it laid out promotes innovation within the building."
Revitalizing the Area
W.R. Dunkin & Son of Anderson began construction in July 2015. The project is on track to finish in November. Just to the south of the project, the city and state are building a street, which created some logistic challenges, reports Craig Dunkin, President of W.R. Dunkin. But through active communication, it has worked out.
"The building is a unique structure, and it's nice to have a part in the project," Dunkin says.
The structural-steel building sits on a concrete spread-footer foundation. The exterior insulated structural precast is load bearing and will be painted. The front showplace area is clad in a glass curtain wall.
Montgomery added sunshades on the windows. The shades display Purdue gold while reducing the air conditioning load. The sunshades do not interfere with students and faculty looking out. The project seeks LEED Silver or Gold certification and has a white roof, an energy-efficient heating and cooling system, and the construction waste is being recycled.
The owners have given preference to local businesses, first those within Madison County, then in contiguous counties and then within Indiana. The project received funding from the Community Revitalization Enhancement District dollars. Fifty-eight percent of the contractors working on the project have come from within a 30-mile radius.
Being a private job, Dunkin was able to invite subcontractors the company had worked with in the past and were known to provide quality work. Dunkin tried to obtain three or four bidders for each contract to secure competitive prices. Additionally, every subcontractor had to submit a minority participation plan.
"This project has been a labor of love for Anderson," Montgomery says.
Other businesses are building on other portions of the former General Motors property. An Italian company, two auto dealerships, and a hospital recently moved in.
"This area is starting to relive again and that's exciting," Staley concludes. "It's good to see it come to life again. We are making progress. I think we have a bright future."