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.