Carol Stewart, the recently-appointed associate vice president for Tech Parks Arizona, moved from Canada to Arizona for her new position because she knew the opportunity would be worth the heat.
“Honestly, Tucson chose me,” Stewart said.
In her previous position, Stewart worked as CEO of the Association of University Research Parks, which is based right here in Tucson, though she worked out of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. She saw the UA as similar to the University of Waterloo, both being public research universities with research parks.
“My passion is the building of research parks,” Stewart said. “And the opportunity to build a new research park here in Tucson is a really tempting opportunity.”
A research or tech park is a property built to foster research and retain talent, often directly connected to a university.
In her new role as associate vice president for the UA’s Tech Parks, Stewart will oversee the Tech Park at Rita Road and continue developing the new “The Bridges” Tech Park on South Kino Parkway. She will also serve as President of the Campus Research Corporation and manage the Arizona Center for Innovation, UA’s business incubator for technology start-ups.
While this may seem like an overwhelming heap of responsibility, it is Stewart’s experience in managing and developing multiple research parks that caught her hiring committee’s eye in the first place. Prior to working with the UA, Stewart co-founded the Canadian chapter of the AURP and directed the David Johnston Research + Technology Park at the University of Waterloo.
“We are extremely pleased to be able to have someone with her experience,” said Bob Smith, vice president for University Planning, Design & Operations at UA, as well as the co-chair of the search committee for Stewart’s hiring. “In her previous position at the AURP, she had the opportunity to support hundreds of research parks around the U.S. and Canada.”
Stewart joins the UA Tech Parks during a time of rapid expansion, particularly with eyes on The Bridges, an undeveloped 65 acres just south of downtown at Kino Parkway and 36th Street. The Bridges is planned to hold corporate, university, business and technology precincts that could support upwards of 15,000 employees over 2 million square feet of developed office and laboratory space.
“The Bridges is a new project that will require a lot of work to start,” Smith said. “It’s important that we find the right mix of cost and quality. That’s generally a challenge for any of these kinds of projects… But I think having a location like this that is ready to develop is a very positive thing.”
During these early days of her employment, Stewart and Smith have been making connections with local businesses and employers as possible collaborators for Tech Park developments.
“The direct and indirect jobs from Tech Parks are over 10,000,” Stewart said. “And with The Bridges project coming online, those numbers will only multiply… Ideally we’d love to break ground this year.”
Smith says the next step for The Bridges is to get that first building out of the ground.
“I think all of the stars are aligned for this to get going,” Smith said.
Stewart began her position at Tech Parks Arizona with the new year, after interviewing throughout summer 2018. She succeeds Bruce Wright, who developed the UA Tech Parks since their inception in 1994. In total, Stewart has more than 20 years of experience working with research parks.
“For me, it’s all about implementing those best practices, such as being a business incubator, having a start-up ecosystem and commercialization,” Stewart said. “Tech parks are key for any city they are in.”
Stewart says the biggest challenge in her new career is already behind her: emigrating from Canada into the U.S., and awaiting the approval of her H-1B visa.
“For three months I was like a racehorse at the starting gate,” Stewart said. “But the hard stuff is behind us. Now everyone’s looking in the same direction, with the same goal in mind, and that’s 90 percent of the effort, right there.”