Sunday, February 3, 2008

140 Green Acres

Austin will soon accommodate the first clean energy park in Texas, according to a recent article in the Austin American-Statesman. The park will be located in Southeast Austin on a plot of land 140 acres large. Trammel Crow Co. holds the contract to buy the land and plans to donate 40 acres of it to the nonprofit organization developing the park. This newly formed nonprofit, the Texas Foundation for Innovative Communities, received a $600,000 grant from the Texas Workforce Commission to begin work on the first phase of the park, which is a research campus. The first two buildings of this phase should be complete by 2010. A business park will come next, which will host “green” companies with specialties ranging from solar power to renewable materials.

B.J. Stanbery, CEO of Austin-based solar power company HelioVolt Inc., has been a “driving force behind the project.” Even his father, as chairman of the Texas Foundation for Innovative Communities, is pushing the deal. Although HelioVolt owns a manufacturing facility elsewhere, it plans to locate a research center at the new park. With such an up-and-coming, well respected company as a tenant, chances are low that the park will have trouble attracting other companies to locate there. On the contrary, I predict that office and research space at the park will be in high demand. Already, the UT Clean Energy Incubator (CEI) is entertaining the idea of moving to the park from its current location at the Pickle research campus.

On the other hand, with projections of recession, who knows many “green” companies will be starting up in the upcoming months? Although energy conscious companies already exist, what incentive do they have to relocate? I wonder if the park is looking to attract startups without real estate, or already established companies looking for better facilities? Is the opportunity to move to the first clean energy park in Texas, located in a city coined by some as the “clean energy capital of the US,” enough to attract tenants from all over the state?

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