Wednesday, February 7, 2001, Vol. 115, No. 25

High tech corridor showing steady growth Small business new player in high-tech corridor By SUE PEASE The Daily News When giving someone a street address or directions to the office of a technology business, it can be an asset to add, "Were in the high-tech corridor." Jay Myers, president and chief executive officer of Interactive Solutions Inc., has been able to do just that since last week when his company moved to 3860 Forest Hill-Irene Road. "We needed facilities that reflected our business growth, and we also liked the fact that our neighbors are high tech. We felt like there would be some benefit to being around people that did the kind of stuff we did," Myers said. ISI provides video-conferencing services. It can offer customers a laundry list of services including developing custom video applications, providing hardware, networking, hook-up, maintenance and support. In 1996, ISI opened in Collierville. Over five years, the company has grown 1,600 percent. The group occupies 5,100 square feet in its new space in the 75,000-square-foot building leased by Trammell Crow Co. EOn Communications, which leases 50,000 square feet, is the other occupant of the building. SCB Computer Technology and Freeliant are located across the street. ISI started with one employee in 1996. It now has 7 full-time and 2 part-time employees. "Weve kept it lean and mean and reflective of our industry," Myers said. The group has installed more than 400 systems since its inception, including tele-medicine systems built for Methodist and Le Bonheur Healthcare. Other clients include Shelby County Schools, Nike, Federal Express, AutoZone, and Buckman Laboratories. The business had revenues of $4.3 million last year. The new space includes warehouse, testing and office space, plus two video conferencing rooms available for public use. Many factors went into the decision to lease space at Forest Hill-Irene Road, Myers said, including easy access from Nonconnah Parkway and Winchester Road, and installing technology infrastructure easily as neighboring companies have done. The high-tech corridor name wasnt bad either, Myers said. "We kind of like being in this neighborhood. We can say we are in the high-tech corridor and thats a nice little moniker." "We thought enough of the Memphis areas commitment to technology and we choose to make a long-term investment out here." The building ISI moved into is part of a larger plan for a 22-acre Forest Hill Technology Park. SmithWoods and Pickering developed the park. A second building will get underway soon, said Don Smith, The Pickering Firm past chairman and chief executive officer, who retired in December. Smith also is a partner in the development firm of SmithWoods and Pickering. The second building in the park will be a 10,000-square-foot speculative building, which will cost about $1.4 million. Construction will begin in April or May. "We have sites for seven buildings, the smallest of which will be 10,000 square feet and the largest will be about 60,000 square feet," Smith said. The park should be completed in about three years. The first tenant in the park, eOn Communications, was the driving force behind the development of the campus, Smith said. Pickering worked closely with eOn during construction. Some issues considered in designing the plans dealt with installing fiber optic cable and making sure enough electrical amperage was available, Smith said. Smith was an integral player in building a concept of a high-tech corridor, which is not an easy one, in the southeast quadrant of Memphis because the proposed plan stretches through parts of Shelby County, Collierville, Germantown and Memphis. "It is more challenging because it crosses four municipalities," said Brian Pecon, director of economic and resource development for Memphis and Shelby County. City officials passed a resolution in December approving the high-technology corridor concept. The concept now includes three different sections of the city. The first is the Nonconnah Parkway corridor where ISI moved. The FedEx World Headquarters and the technology campus in Collierville are bookends for the area, Pecon said. The second is the Medical Center encompassed by Methodist Hospital Central, The Regional Medical Center and UT-Memphis. The third is evolving Downtown near Tennessee Street and Calhoun Avenue where the Memphis Incubator Systems is expected to build a new building. "We are trying to create standardization or a common set of requirements that would be involved as we develop in there. So, when you go from one area to the next it would be transparent," Pecon said. Pecon said having three areas with a high-tech focus in three different parts of the city would create a more balanced approach. In the Nonconnah Parkway corridor, some prospects for the area have surfaced recently, said Scott Andrews, vice president of development and construction services for Trammell Crow Co. The eOn Communications building is 96 percent occupied, he said. Trammell Crow has options for another 12 acres and 125,000 square feet in the area. The company currently has no plans to build any speculative space there. "There is a bit of a lull right now. There has been a lot of capacity built. My intuition is that the technical demand will continue to be there. I think there will continue to be demand, but probably a lot more prudent demand," Andrews said.