Mid-America Science Park and Stray Light Optical Technologies
821 S. Lake Road Scottsburg, IN 47170
Scottsburg, the county seat of Scott County in southern Indiana (pop. 6747), 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky, houses commuters to the metro area, and might not naturally be thought of as a technology and innovation center in itself. But Scottsburg’s longtime mayor, the forward-thinking Bill Graham, imagined and helped bring about a world-class technology business incubator in what was once a brake-parts factory.
Executive Director Joe Pearson—who in a previous life served as an agricultural missionary in Borneo—worked with Mayor Graham in bringing the Mid-America Science Park from dream to reality, so that Scottsburg could compete in the global economy. Pearson and others helped the mayor plan the science park—part business incubator and accelerator, part training and workforce developer, and part conference and communication facility—expanding the former factory into 112,000 square feet of flexible space, fueled in large part by 20 kilowatts of solar photovoltaic panels on the roof of the building, one of the largest single installations in Indiana. Customized labs with advanced computer and communications technologies, water jet cutting technology, and a 3D printer all help innovators develop their ideas.
Stray Light Optical is one of the technological entrepreneurs working in the incubator—in fact, it was Mid-America’s first tenant. Robert Drake, chief technical officer, and Gerald Rea, chief executive officer, work to create and develop plasma lights, very large-scale lighting that rivals LEDs in efficiency and longevity, while offering much truer color for less cost. A dimmable light the size of a Tic-Tac candy emits 23,000 lumens that are nearly 96 percent true to the sun’s light spectrum, has multiple applications, wherever large-scale lighting is needed: on streets, in stadiums, in surgical theaters, greenhouses, aquariums, and automobile lots.
Stray Light has provided light for General Motors, Paramount Studios, Disney, Boeing, NASA, and the Indiana National Guard, the Indiana Department of Transportation, and the cities of Seattle, Indianapolis, and Toronto. They even lit up the Golden Globe and Oscar award ceremonies. Other organizations being attracted to the Mid-America Science Park include defense contractors and innovators in the field of health.
The park also provides educational training. Working with Ivy Tech, Mid-America has set up labs to train workers in a variety of strategically chosen technical skills. Thinking ahead to the Ohio River Bridges project, for instance, they are designing and building a welding institute to provide certified welders. And using the educational tools developed down the highway at Amatrol in Jeffersonville, they are training specialists in maintenance and installation of solar photovoltaic and solar thermal systems.
The science park proved a good neighbor in Southern Indiana when, a few months after it opened in fall, 2011, the entire Henryville public school system ten miles away was destroyed by a tornado. From March to May, 2012, junior and senior high classes were held at Mid-America Science Park, while builders scrambled to replace the destroyed school.