At a building dedication ceremony held today, Southern Research Institute leaders said that rapid business growth in engineering research and development necessitated the construction of a new $5.6 million high-tech engineering laboratory on its Engineering Research Center (ERC) campus in Birmingham.
“Over the past five years alone, the engineering division has grown over 60 percent, to now over $36 million in revenue,” said Michael D. Johns, vice president of Engineering. “This is the type of growth the leaders at the Institute envisioned over 20 years ago when we built the first world-class engineering laboratory building on this campus. Two years ago, we had to ask ourselves what are the necessary steps we need to take to continue that growth trajectory? The new ERC Phase II building was the answer.”
"For Alabama's economic development, having this world-class engineering institute is critical to supporting the sustainability of companies located here, as well as enhancing our continuing efforts in attracting new industry," said Bill Taylor, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA).
Southern Research’s engineers work primarily in areas that make the country stronger, safer, and cleaner—in bioenergy and alternative fuels, clean-coal technologies, next-generation composite materials for advanced space flight, lightweight materials for advanced transportation and power delivery, and imaging systems for airborne flight platforms.
Because of this expansion, Johns estimated that during the next two years, Southern Research will hire approximately 12 new senior level engineers and 12 technicians, and potentially generate $6 million in new revenue annually. In addition, Johns said the building will serve as a technology proving ground for Southern Research’s new engineering business spin-out opportunities.
“We are a market-driven research business and pride ourselves on our ability to rapidly change and adapt to changing government and commercial funding environments,” said Johns. This expansion will allow Southern Research to expand current programs in airborne imaging systems, advanced materials, light-weight composite materials, and structural integrity research of large complex systems, such as aerospace vehicles. The building will house:
- A large structures evaluation laboratory to conduct complex multi-axial load studies on aerospace and industrial structures as large as rocket components and composite utility poles,
- A lab to conduct composite structures development and prototyping to spin out technology and products,
- A lab for material conditioning and aging programs that play a critical role in aerospace and national security; and,
- A lab to conduct electro-optic systems, electronics and hardware assembly that requires vibration isolated floors.
Construction of the $5.6 million ERC Phase II facility—a 19,000-square-foot building with three high-bay labs and two floors of offices—was completed in July 2012. Construction costs were vetted through a formal estimation process using Hill International in Atlanta, GA. KPS Group served as the architect for the project. Brasfield & Gorrie was selected as the building contractor. Funding for the new facility was supported by grants from the Daniel Foundation and the Alabama Power Foundation and through tax-exempt bond financing approved by the City of Birmingham.
Also participating in today’s dedication ceremony were Congressman Spencer Bachus, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, Bill Taylor, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama; and Dr. Richard Marchase, interim president of The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).
“The work of our engineers has been recognized by a number of their clients—most notably NASA— for our efforts on behalf of the space program,” said John A. “Jack” Secrist III, Ph.D., president and CEO of Southern Research. “And that our engineers so often link with other Alabama research entities proves that our founders were correct that Southern Research Institute could play a supporting role to create new products and technologies here in the state.”