Hi Tech Neighbors

Posted Monday --- February 18, 2008 --- 8:20pm

On any given day tens of thousands of us will drive by it.

Yet few of us know it's there.

NBC 15s Carleen Wild tells us more about University Research park- a jewel, hidden in the heart of our city.

Companies are born out of research being done at the UW. They are either on the forefront, or the cusp of some of the most positive changes being made in the world.

Intellectually, the growth potential is enormous.

The UW is leading the nation in federal research dollars to support ideas born here.

The ideas however, may simply be limited by space.

Mark Bugher, Head of the University of Wisconsin's Research Park says, "When i have the opportunity to observe some of these companies in action, young people with significant educational backgrounds, what they're doing to improve quality of life for people in this country. It's amazing to me considering where we've come."

Bugher is watching with wonder as some of the last properties available at their current site, the corner of Whitney Way and Mineral Point Road site are under construction.

This spring, April '08, will start another building, combination incubator/accelerator building, provide additional opportunities for faculty entrepreneurs.

Research Park was born in the 1980's as a breeding ground for ideas developed on the UW campus.

"As a public University, land grant university, we have responsibility to share the discoveries that occur on campus with the citizens and taxpayers of Wisconsin."

There are more than 115 companies now in the park, over 4,000 employees.

The average salary is $62,000 a year, double the state's average per capita income.

One of the smallest, but most promising companies to watch is Quintessance.

The company with a staff of 8 is working right now on a novel drug called QB-139, that could revolutionize the way we treat cancer.

"The product is based on human protein. So taking something in the human body, modified it slightly and turned it into something that can kill cancer cells. I think it will be very well tolerated."

All born out of the work of 2 UW Biochemists.

"We all have friends and people we care about suffer from cancer, seeing some of them go thru the treatments, hard to see the effects its had on people, i think we've got something that's going to work."

The largest employer in Research Park already knows they have something that works ...

Captel and its parent company Ultratech, together employ more than 1,000 here locally.

With an impact that's being felt in every corner of the world.

The companies provide telecommunication products and services to the deaf, hearing impaired or speech impaired so that they may communicate over the phone.

Ideas that all started with founder Rob Engelke, while he was an electrical engineering student on campus.

"In the very simplest terms, what would you do if you couldn't use the phone, a phone anywhere, what would you do? Could you do your job, could you get a job? What would you do in an emergency, we try to enable people to use the phone when they otherwise could not."

On his staff, are many who use the products themselves.

"This technology is really something that millions of people need. It's exciting to see the positive outcome from their being able to use the technology, and hear and see everything people say when they're on the phone.

"We have a wall of letters people tell us how special captel is for them, telling us its a godsend, a lifesaver, what a difference its made in their business, allowing people to stay connected and independent in their homes."

"Some people might not look at their jobs as an opportunity but its an opportunity to work for a company really making a difference in people's lives."

Just a snapshot of 2 out of so many companies here in Research Park.

"What kind of impact this place has had on the lives of people, quality of life but also the economy in this region, it is a significant economic driver in this region and will continue to be for many years to come."

Just to emphasize the difference companies here are making in the community, besides the potential for their discoveries..

Remember earlier in the piece, we mentioned average salary.

At $62,000 per employee -- multiply that by 4000 people. Payroll is approximately $250 million.

That alone, financial experts say gets turned over six times.. which implies a $1.5 billion impact on the local economy.