U signs technology agreement

Rushford Hypersonic company will be able to use nanotechnology developed by University scientists.

by Holly Miller

The University will finalize an agreement today with a local nanotechnology company, allowing the use of faculty-developed technology to help start its business in the flood-damaged southeastern part of the state.

Under the agreement, the Rushford-based Rushford Hypersonic will be able to use nanoparticle film deposition technologies – used to strengthen industrial tools -developed by University scientists and engineers.

Daniel Fox, CEO of Rushford Hypersonic, said being able to use the University’s patented technology will allow his business to have “a distinct competitive edge.”

“We’ll be able to make cutting tools that last longer and run cooler than anyone else,” he said.

The main technology, called hypersonic plasma particle deposition, allows for coatings that can be applied to tools, making them last longer before needing replacement, Steven Girshick, a professor of mechanical engineering, said.

Girshick worked over the past decade with several other University faculty members to develop the technology.

“I think it is positive for the University faculty to work together with industries so the things we develop in the laboratory make it out into the real world,” he said.

While the business stands to profit from using the technology, some critics are questioning the government loan Rushford Hypersonic has applied for.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Wabashaw, said the city of Rushford’s attempt to grant a loan to Rushford Hypersonic from flood relief funds is illegal.

“Flood money was not designed for businesses that did not receive, to quote the statute, ‘direct and adverse damage from the flood,’ ” he said.

Rushford suffered close to $17 million in flood damage to businesses, and around $27 million in damage to homes, leaving the community ravaged in August 2007, city administrator Winthro Block said.

Block said despite Drazkowski’s concern, the city has pushed forward in filing the proper paperwork with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to obtain the loan, and doesn’t foresee problems in having the funds granted.

The loan of $500,000 the city hopes to grant Rushford Hypersonic is fully repayable, differing from the other $16 million of aid the city has already allocated to businesses that they won’t receive back, Block said.

“Economic development and getting jobs here will help this community recover faster and ensure the success of the businesses we have invested another $16 million in,” he said. “Without people here, without jobs, people won’t stay in Rushford and businesses won’t survive long term.”

Despite what happens with the disbursement of loan money, Girshick said he hopes the technology he and his colleagues worked diligently on is able to transition smoothly from the lab to the industrial work place.

“This is a very advanced process,” he said. “It will require a fair amount of engineering development to bring it from the laboratory into industrial production.”