Arizona lawmaker attacks university for science park
As the Faculty Senate prepares for today's update on the UA's Science and Technology Park, one Arizona legislator is maligning university officials for their involvement in the business venture.
Rep. Jean McGrath (R-Glendale) said she is sponsoring a measure mandating that universities sell the research establishments and stop further involvement with the sites.
McGrath called the parks a "waste of money" and said she is "disappointed" in Arizona State University and the University of Arizona for sponsoring the facilities, which serve as research and development sites for corporate and university partnership.
"I find it ludicrous that the university feels they have the expertise to do this," McGrath said during an interview yesterday. "I'd like them to get out of a bad investment. I'm baffled as to who let them be so silly - obviously the (Arizona Board of) Regents."
McGrath charged that the establishments compete with the private sector in Arizona, adding that the odds of a park succeeding are 50-50.
"The university thinks they're hot-shot business leaders and they're not," she said. "They don't have a clue as to what they're getting into."
Bruce Wright, the University of Arizona's associate vice president for economic development, said the park is a financially strong, quickly growing extension of the UA.
"The park is covering its operating expenses now so it's financially successful," Wright said yesterday. "We're making strong connections between the park tenants and the university. We require that every tenant have some type of connection with the university."
With a two million square-foot space and 4,000 employees, the park is the ninth-largest university-related research park in the United States.
The tenants, which include IBM and Raytheon, are employing UA students and offering them internships, Wright said. Both companies employ about 2,800 people at the facility.
"A number of the companies are using UA students for internships," Wright said.
But McGrath said the internship opportunities are available elsewhere, and the universities should not have used about $20 million of taxpayer funds to sponsor the parks.
"They could have taken that money and bought internships and they'd be way ahead," McGrath said.
Wright said that the park, located at 9000 S. Rita Road, houses 20 tenants and will continue to grow with the addition of a UA lab and the possible construction of a library.
"She (McGrath) lacks information about the progress we made in the development of the park," Wright said. "We're well on the way to making it a part of the research aspect of the university. We're concerned about technology and development."
The UA should have accomplished much of this work during the past three years, McGrath said.
"They're just now getting around to doing these things - hello?," she said.
The measure will most likely hit the house floor about one week from tomorrow, McGrath said.