New IRSC president foresees budding partnership with business community
Past entrepreneurship experiences will prove helpful in forging a connection
Indian River State College’s new president, Timothy Moore, has qualifications that are especially interesting to the Treasure Coast business community. Besides being an academic at institutions such as Kansas State, Auburn University and Florida A&M, he spent the last several years as an entrepreneur, developing a probiotic and bringing it to market. A military veteran, Moore also has worked with two biotech startup companies, Ventech Solutions Inc. and MagPlasma.
He succeeds Edwin Massey, who as the college’s president for 32 years focused intensely on developing a workforce for the region and working closely with businesses to improve and expand manufacturing. The college is in the midst of building the Advanced Workforce Training Complex, a $23 million, 55,000-square-foot industrial technology facility on its Massey Campus in Fort Pierce.
Moore, 57, sat down recently with Treasure Coast Business Magazine Publisher Gregory Enns to talk about how the college will connect with the region’s business community.
Q: Tell me about your experiences as an entrepreneur. What were MagPlasma and Probaxstra? Are you still associated with them?
A: What I told the board [of trustees of IRSC] was that if I was approved for this job, I would decouple myself from those opportunities. So I’m in the process of doing that now. Probaxstra [probiotic] is my baby. It was the derivative of my research. I had to challenge myself to figure out how to go from a test tube to a full blown production company and do it inexpensively and be able to be successful at it. The company is 4 years old, it is debt free. It is selling on Amazon. What is it exactly? It’s a probiotic. The probiotic that I have is a single strain bacterium. It works in specific areas of the gut. We got the intellectual property for it, I outsourced the manufacturing and production of the strain, we identified the FDA compliant producers, we put together a marketing plan, we got it in Amazon. It was just myself and two other partners. But it was my brain trust. And so what I’m doing now is I’m basically handing that over to my partners and letting them run it. MagPlasma is a company that a friend of mine from the Army from 35 years ago started.
Q: Fifteen years ago we had hopes for becoming a research center that would be known as the Research Coast. But then the recession came and we never quite got there. Do you see that happening?
A: The only question is, how do we assimilate IRSC to be a generator ... the engine behind that. And so, one of the things you’re going to see me push — we’ve got a very strong entrepreneurial base program here — is to accelerate it. I want these students to come in while they’re enrolled and start businesses. Let them learn what they don’t know already. It’s tough to slog through nothing to something. Why am I so interested in making them go out there and try and [possibly] failing? It’s because 60 to 70 percent of all businesses in the next 20 years will be an entrepreneur-based business. If we don’t do this now, we’re not going to be ready, I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface of what we can do, in terms of helping business be really competitive. Think about this, we’re a state-supported sovereign entity right here. If we build a capacity to produce widgets and gadgets for industry, we can become very basic R&D and basic proof of production line, that saves them money that improves profitability. That means they can hire more employees and it gives us an ability to train their workforce. And that, to me, that’s a synergistic model. And I want to see us in that sweet spot, doing just that.
Q: At Auburn University, you actually worked on licensing some products, including a horse vaccine, that were developed and owned by Auburn. Can IRSC become actively involved in developing and licensing products as well?
A: There are certain operating parameters we have to adhere to but by and large, if a student comes in with an idea, and we build the angel, investing and fund around [it] we can support them going out the door. And there’s nothing wrong with it — we can come up with a way to provide accounting support or technical support or production support. Say that you start your business and you want to do something for charity and use our advanced manufacturing facility as part of your production base, we can be on a contract to do that. So there are ways we can do this. I’ve told all my staff, we’re going to strip away all limitations of our thought process: We’re going to go blue sky. How do we do this to ensure that this college 25 years from now is stronger and better than it is today? And to know that we’ve helped more people and we’ve had an economic impact beyond just payroll washing through the community.
Q: Won’t some businesses fear that the college is competing against them?
A: No, and it’s a great question, but I disagree with the premise. I’ll tell you why. At the end of the day, we have a mission and our mission is not to sit there and be in competition with them. When we did the vaccine project at Auburn, we were sole source to the United States. We were the only ones doing it. So there really wasn’t anybody in competition with. So there are discreet areas where we can complement and we’re not going to be in competition. For a startup business, if a technology is developed here and intellectual property is developed here, IRSC will license it to protect them and will help give them get that top cover for their intellectual property. So they can go off and do their thing. And all we’re going to ask for in return is that if they go out of business, we can draw back the intellectual property. And we [may] have an equity stake, a minority stake in the company, so that if they get sold or bought or acquired, or whatever, the college and the State of Florida benefits from what’s happened here, [as long as it’s] totally legal and permissible. I’m a business guy. I’ve been in all these areas. I’ve seen how it’s going right. I’ve seen how it’s going wrong, I see how deals get messed up. I see how companies lose.
Q: So you would actually see the college being a minority owner in some businesses?
A: I’ve not gone through all the legal parameters, but at [Auburn University] we spawned out several companies, we licensed several product lines and technologies.
Q: Because of the Treasure Coast’s agricultural history and your association with agricultural research, do you see opportunities for IRSC in this field? Are there opportunities to partner with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, for example?
A: The answer to your question is yes. Agriculture is a much more high-tech business, from the ability to do their financing, their employment, their payroll, their questions of how they improve yields, improve their water quality, or control their rental. There’s lots of areas where we can help them. Absolutely.
Q: One of your goals is to expand health-care education. How do you do that?
A: One is, to the extent we possibly do it right now with the constraints of financing, expanding our nursing program. Twenty percent of the U.S. GDP is health care. And so we need to be playing a strong role in that area because our graduates are going to be reflective of the demands of our economy. Florida is a wonderful state — we rank third in the nation in terms of population size and right now we are first in the nation in terms of population 65 and over. And we have a large growing minority population coming along here. What most people don’t realize is we ranked 43rd in terms of our per capita doctors to citizens, and our nursing care is also skewed. We’ve got to do more. And it’s not just us, it’s everybody in the educational environments … [we’ve] got to do more because the demand is only getting bigger.
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