Aaron Olver, a former secretary of the state Department of Commerce and head of Madison’s economic development division, has been hired as managing director of University Research Park.
“Aaron has extensive experience as a leader on economic development in the Madison region and across the state. He has the skills to lead University Research Park as it grows and changes,” says UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, who serves as chair of the URP Board of Trustees.
Olver worked in the Department of Commerce from 2003 to 2011, first as executive assistant, then as deputy secretary and secretary. After leaving Commerce, Olver became the director of economic development for the City of Madison. He has also spent time in the private sector, serving as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company in Chicago.
With 3,600 jobs at 126 companies, URP has long been considered a national model in the use of real estate as a venue for high-tech, high-paying jobs with strong links to a research university.
A 2010 study found that the 260-acre park on Madison’s west side was generating $826 million in economic activity. A 370-acre expansion of the park, dubbed University Research Park 2, is also underway to the west of the URP site.
“Aaron has guided many innovative projects that brought significant investment and revitalization at both the city and state level. I look forward to working with him to continue the success in our existing research park and in the development of the second research park that is being developed on the west side of the city,” Blank says.
Olver graduated with honors from UW–Madison, earning a bachelor’s degree in economics. He was selected as a Rhodes Scholar and attended Oxford University, where he earned a graduate degree in philosophy, politics and economics.
“Major public research universities are engines that drive regional economic growth, and the URP has been an important component in stimulating that growth.”
Olver replaces Mark Bugher, who retired as director of URP last November.
“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to work in such a dynamic and innovative environment,” Olver says. “Major public research universities are engines that drive regional economic growth, and the URP has been an important component in stimulating that growth. It is one of the most effective university-run research parks in the country.”
Many URP companies, like Flugen and Cellular Dynamics, emerged directly from discoveries at UW-Madison. Others, like Ultratec, the park’s largest tenant, were initiated by UW-Madison employees. At least 60 percent of the jobs at the park derived from work at UW-Madison.
The managing director works in close partnership with the Research Park, Inc. Board of Trustees, university leadership, faculty and staff, and entities such as the UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. The managing director coordinates the design, construction and real estate development of the buildings and property within the park, as well as the acquisition and redevelopment of other properties that strategically support UW-Madison.
The managing director also serves as a key liaison with city and county government, state officials and agencies, the business community and local media, working to maintain strategic relationships that foster the research park’s planning, growth and development objectives.