February 20, 2001

Contact: Judith Galas, ITTC, (785) 864-4776.

KU-Lawrence group promotes area as tech center

LAWRENCE -- Bob LaGarde, Marc Epard and Bennett Griffin weren't thinking about turning Lawrence into the next Silicon Valley when they hatched the idea to create a technology-focused professional association. The three friends simply wanted to collaborate with others in the Lawrence area who work in technological fields.

But they soon learned that strong technology-based communities like North Carolina's Research Triangle share a common element -- a major university presence.

"When you look at places that have blossomed as technology centers, both the seeds and the ongoing growth have been linked to a world-class university," said Victor Frost, director of the Information and Telecommunication Technology Center at the University of Kansas.

Frost and Tim Johnson, executive director for applied technology at ITTC, were among those who accepted the trio's invitation to build the Lawrence Technology Association and serve as KU's representatives -- first on the planning committee and then on the executive board.

In January, the association's kickoff luncheon included 85 guests and keynote speaker Rich Bendis, the president of the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp., which stimulates economic development in Kansas by assisting entrepreneurs.

Bendis urged the association to build a strong private-public partnership that involved the county, city and KU.

"It has been demonstrated that unless a strong research institution is involved in the efforts to build a technical economy, the effort generally doesn't work," Bendis said.

LaGarde, association president, and Epard are keenly aware of KU's role in the area's tech community. LaGarde moved his company from Topeka to Lawrence because the quality of the KU students he had recruited to his e-commerce software manufacturing firm impressed him.

While recruiting for Netopia -- which develops e-business infrastructure for small- and medium-size businesses -- Epard spoke with a recent KU graduate at an Overland Park job fair.

"She had just moved from Lawrence to Kansas City because she thought there were no technology companies in Lawrence," Epard said. "The Lawrence Technology Association would like to prevent that from happening again by sponsoring activities for KU students."

Frost thinks the association will benefit businesses and KU researchers.

"The Lawrence Technology Association provides not only an exchange of information about other technology companies, but also about the technology research and commercialization taking place at KU," he said. "Greater awareness and networking should spark future collaboration."

Charles Decedue, executive director of KU's Higuchi Biosciences Center and an association member, thinks the association could assist bioscientists who want to create and build their own companies.

"Members who have successfully developed companies can offer Higuchi's entrepreneurs information and support," Decedue said.

The association will meet every other month for a luncheon; the next is in March. In alternate months, informal social gatherings will be held to promote networking.

"Anyone at KU with ties to areas like technology, marketing or business can benefit from being a part of the association," LaGarde said. "We're happy to put people on our mailing list so they can learn about upcoming events."

For more information about the association, see http://www.lawrencetech.org. For an events and luncheon schedule, contact LaGarde Inc. at (785) 830-9800.

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