Ad for Research Park GM a sign things are improving

Officials with The Research Park of Sarnia-Lambton hope to have a general manager by May.

The Research Park, which is owned by Lambton County but run by the University of Western Ontario, has had a rough financial ride recently. It had a cash flow problem when NCO – a major tenant in the Modeland Road facility – closed shop. The rent was worth about $1 million per year.

A new executive, Paul Paolatto, was brought in, reduced staff and went to county council to get politicians to approve a financial package to suspend the Research Park’s $1.4 million yearly payment on its $17 million debt. Council backed the idea by a vote of 29 to 5.

That support, Paolatto says, helped the Research Park gain some ground and the board is now ready to hire a general manager who will be based in Sarnia.

Paolatto says the board is looking for someone with significant experience to take over the general park operations and “maintain relations with the current tenants.

“Seasoning would be a particularly strong prerequisite,” he adds. “This person has to deal with a lot of divergent interest…including speaking to the research and bringing researchers to the park.”

The new general manager will also have to help find new tenants for the park, although Paolatto says local real estate agents will continue to help with that aspect of the operation. “There will be a role for some real estate services because the role is more general in nature so it might be helpful to have real estate assistance.”

The new position will be based out of Sarnia and Paolatto says the board expects the new GM to live in Sarnia-Lambton. “The best stewards of a community asset like this are people who live and work in the community,” he says. “Nothing is going to be as effective as someone who has stakes in the community…and a vested interest in the community.”

The Research Park is accepting applications for the position until March 11. Paolatto hopes to have the new GM in place by May.

– Heather Wright