NN Pitches Jefferson Park to High-Tech Firms

Firms like Muhlbauser Inc. are much in demand by city development officials these days.

But those kinds of high-tech firms can be difficult to snag since they have specific work force and technical needs.

"They tend to be very thorough," said Paul Miller, the city's director of planning and development. "They have a lot of opportunities where they can go."

Newport News is trying to attract more companies like Muhlbauer to fill the Jefferson Center for Research and Technology, a scientific research park adjacent to the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.

City development officials have produced a slick brochure touting the benefits of the Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory Facility and the area's colleges and universities. It's also using a study prepared by Mt. Auburn Associates, a consulting firm, to identify what kinds of tenants to pursue.

The brochure, which mentions Muhlbauer, will be sent to companies in the industries that the city wants to lure. It fits inside another recently produced marketing piece that promotes Newport News' high-tech attractions.

Muhlbauer was one type of firm that the Mt. Auburn study pin-pointed: industrial users of the free-electron laser at the Jefferson Lab. The study also recommended going after laser-making companies and their suppliers and firms that can tap into Jefferson Lab-related technology.

Muhlbauer will make machines that produce "smart cards," such as prepaid phone cards. Donald Joyce, president of Muhlbauer Inc., said the proximity of Jefferson Lab and NASA Langley Research Center were key in Muhlbauer's choice of Newport News.

Its 20,000-square-foot building, designed by Forrest Coile Associates, is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Muhlbauer ultimately plans to invest $20 million in a 160,000-square-foot building.

Miller said that Fred Paris, a city marketing official, is working with a number of prospects to bring additional tenants to Jefferson Center.

Beyond quality-of-life concerns, those high-tech companies take a close look at an area's technology base, such as what the local universities are doing and the pool of engineers they can tap into, Miller said.

Some of the university-related work will happen across the park at the Applied Research Center, which is under construction. William and Mary, Christopher Newport University and Old Dominion University each plan to have a presence there; Norfolk State University and Hampton University are two recent additions, Miller said.

Bringing in Muhlbauer will prompt the city to build infrastructure, such as utilities, that the rest of the park can use, he said. It also gives the park a private tenant to use in its marketing efforts.

"Having somebody there early on is an early sign of potential success," he said.