A major site on Chandler's Price Road technology corridor formerly occupied by Motorola could be the future home of a biotechnology business incubator.
The idea is to set up a city-subsidized space tailored for small but growing biotech firms, a commercial sector Chandler covets because of the high-paying jobs it brings. Once a firm becomes established, the expectation is that it would remain in Chandler, boosting the city's economic base, said Pat McDermott, assistant city manager.
"(Biotech) is one of our areas where we'd like to see some more development in town," he said.
The 152-acre Motorola site sits at 2501 S. Price Road, between Germann and Queen Creek roads. It includes the 400,000-square-foot facility where the company developed its Iridium satellite telephone network, a project that fell far short of expectations. Motorola announced in June 2007 that it was moving operations to a Tempe location and putting the Chandler site up for sale.
Mayor Boyd Dunn broached the idea of using a portion of the site as a business incubator in his State of the City address earlier this month.
The site is the largest single area left in Chandler that could be devoted for this unique purpose, Dunn said in a subsequent interview with the Tribune.
The mayor said he would like the city to have an active role in fostering new biotech businesses.
Officials have raised the incubator proposal with some of the developers who have expressed interest in buying the Motorola site, he said. Officials have examined established business incubators elsewhere in the nation for inspiration as well, Dunn said.
"We've gone to some of the premier employment parks in the country to get a flavor of what we want to have there, something that is a little bit out of the ordinary," he said.
The Chandler Airpark, an industrial area around the Chandler Municipal Airport, west of Gilbert Road between Pecos and Ocotillo roads, is another attractive site for a biotech incubator, Dunn said. The area is home to Covance Laboratories, which conducts pharmaceutical testing, and it might make sense to locate other biotech firms nearby, he said.
McDermott said the city is not interested in buying the Motorola site, which officials have not appraised. Rather, city officials would consider approaching whoever buys the land from Motorola to use a portion of the space, possibly 10,000 square feet, for the incubator, he said.
If officials reach a deal with the buyer, the city would then remodel the space into labs and offices outfitted for biotech firms, he said.
"It's not a given that they'd be interested in it," McDermott said.
According to Chandler's land-use guidelines, the Price Road Employment Corridor is the city's main hub of employment and is reserved for high-tech manufacturing, corporate offices and certain industries such as aerospace, biomedical, and renewable-energy research and development.
Ideally, officials would like to see another large technology firm take up residence at the Motorola site, he said.
"We think it can continue to generate jobs in the area," he said. "We want to keep it for larger development projects and larger tenants."
So far, there has been no official direction from the City Council about moving forward with a biotech incubator, McDermott said.