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Research & Development: Cornerstone of the Future

This article appeared in Dayton USA, September 1965

R & D

Research and Development: Cornerstone of the Future

By C. William Ingler


     This history of Dayton is filled with stories of ideas that have led to strong industrial enterprises.  Dayton is the home of the airplane, the self-starter, and the cash register.  Now, with more than 5,000 scientists and engineers doing research and development work, the community continues to be a leader in the invention and development of new products.

     It is well understood, however, that a community cannot rest on past achievements any more than can industry itself.  A renewed community effort to strengthen the research and development (R & D) environment began in 1961.  Dayton area scientists, engineers, public officials, and business men reconfirmed their belief that the methods and requirements of research and development are changing.

     In the old days, tinkering by one or a few brilliant men often had led to major developments.  This is less often true in the modern era.  As the fund of knowledge became greater, and the problems more sophisticated, R & D has become an organizational enterprise.  Small to medium-sized firms have come into existence which specialize in the R & D process, up to and including the production of proven prototypes.  Larger firms have established R & D divisions, with the permanent assignment of developing products, components, or systems which can strengthen the company product line.  The work now requires teams of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers, with special kinds of facilities, equipment, and environmental advantages.

     The Dayton community now has established an ideal environment just east of the city for still further industrial-science investments.  All of the desirable components are in place or in the making in that location, including a major federal-government R & D capability, a modern public university, an Interstate System expressway, and an ample supply of land which is properly planned for light industry and supportive development.

     Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is the largest single technological capability in the United States Air Force.  With some 26,000 military and civilian personnel, it also is the largest single employer in the metropolitan area.  It contains more than 8,000 acres of land and 1,300 buildings, valued at more than a half billion dollars.  Activities on the base represent almost every phase of aerospace technical effort including basic research, applied research, systems engineering and development, systems procurement, aerospace medical research, foreign technology, logistics support, and strategic operations.

     Even more important than the sheer magnitude of Wright–Patterson is the qualitative character of its science and engineering personnel.  Local laboratories of the Aeronautical Systems Division, for example, are responsible for the management, development, acquisition, and modernization of all aircraft and non-ballistic missiles used or to be used by the Air Force.

     The Research and Technology Division is responsible for the exploratory and advanced development programs in such areas as electro-magnetic energy conversion, special weapons, rocket propulsion components, materials sciences, electronic techniques, and flight vehicle dynamics and performance.

     The Aerospace Medical Research laboratories conduct programs in such fields as weightlessness, acceleration, impact, vibration, noise, radiation, heat and cold, sustenance, protective equipment, emergency escape and emergency survival.

     Air Force Logistics Command, with world-wide headquarters at Wright–Patterson, is responsible for continuous equipping and supply of Air Force combat units everywhere; it procures most Air Force supplies and equipment, and it commands more than 170,000 personnel throughout the world.

     The Air Force Institute of Technology is primarily a graduate school for officers, teaching the specialized Air Force elements of science, engineering, systems, logistics, and other technical subjects.  The Aeronautical Research laboratory, with more than 260 scientists and supporting personnel, is one of the few in-house basic research capabilities in the defense establishment.  It also has unique research equipment and laboratory capabilities.

     All of these are strong in-house organizations of R & D personnel who conduct a great deal of scientific and logistical business with the outside world.  Their presence alone makes the W-PAFB neighborhood one of the most attractive in the country for R & D enterprises.

     Recognizing that this one great asset for the modern R & D environment already was in place and highly developed, Dayton area leaders investigated the possibility of strengthening the others.  Higher education, for example, with graduate-level strength in engineering and the sciences, is important to industrial-science organizations in more ways than one.  It produces a local supply of professional personnel.  It sometimes can serve as a research contractor for an industrial firm with scientific problems.  It provides the kind of environment in which industrial scientists like to live, so that they and their children can have the advantage of higher education itself and of the cultural activities that surround universities.

     Dayton already was deriving great benefit from the presence of the University of Dayton, in the city itself, and of Antioch College, which is some 18 miles away in Yellow Springs.  Studies by Community Research, Inc., showed, however, that the Dayton area was becoming too big a metropolis to depend entirely upon private institutions for higher education service.  The studies showed that there is a large and growing market for a local public university, which would enable many additional young people to attend college close to their homes at minimum cost.  It was concluded that there should be established a state university in the Dayton area.

     The founding of the new Wright State University now is history, and has become a well-known chapter in American higher education.  Local citizens contributed a total of $6 million in gifts, half of which was given to the University of Dayton, the other half to Miami and Ohio State Universities for joint establishment of the new public institution.  The new project was planned, built and opened in the record time of two years, and its first class was admitted September,1964.  More than 3,000 students (some of them graduate students in science or engineering) were enrolled in the first year of operation.

     In the early days of the project, in 1962, a great deal of thought had been given to the problem of location.  A number of desirable sites were available.  The two parent universities, together with Dayton area business leaders, scientists, and public officials, recognized that universities, too, are operating under new conditions and requirements.

     It was believed that the site should be large, so that future growth and automobile parking could be accommodated; and that ideally there should be well-planned open territory around it so that the most desirable related developments could occur.  Also, it was recognized that if a campus of this kind could be established near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, then the growth of a great new science and engineering complex would be inevitable.  Such a site was found, immediately adjacent to the Base and lying between John Glenn Highway and Old Route 4, East of Dayton.  The Air Force responded to the idea with great enthusiasm, and even contributed about one-third of the 60-acre campus.

     As a resource for industrial-science enterprises, the new university did not start from scratch.  For many years, Ohio State University (one of the 20 leading universities which do 75 percent of the nation’s federal contract university research work) had been offering graduate courses in its Dayton branch, including courses in aeronautics, chemistry, six different engineering fields, mathematics, physics, and psychology

     Miami University already was offering branch work in accounting, art, business, economics, education, languages, geography, geology, government, history, home economics, library science, music, philosophy, physical education, physiology, speech, and other subjects.

     This broad range of fully-accredited instruction now has been transferred into its new campus.  A full-time resident faculty has been organized and is being rapidly expanded, and the development of a library and other central services is well under way.

     Under legislation enacted by the 1965 Ohio General Assembly, the new campus is scheduled to become a fully independent state university, under its own board of trustees, in 1967. The long-range campus plan, prepared in 1962 by professional planners, forecasts a campus which ultimately will need to be able to accommodate 25,000 students.  New construction is under way at the rate of about $3,000,000 per year.  The first general-purpose classroom facility was built with locally contributed funds and went into use in 1964.

     Phase II, a still larger facility to house the science and engineering center, is under construction and will open in two stages, in 1966 and 1967 respectively.  Phase III, another general-purpose and library facility, also is under construction and will open in 1967.  The latter two facilities are financed with $9 million of state appropriations.

     It is inevitable that Wright State University will develop as a major university with special capabilities in science and engineering.  Already there is extensive contact between the faculty and graduate students of the university, and the professional personnel of the Air Force nearby.  The opportunities are great for useful relationships, such as exchange of ideas and mutual benefit from the presence of unique laboratory capabilities on both sides of the fence.

     Third among the building blocks to be put into place is the new Interstate 777 bypass expressway around the east side of the Dayton metropolitan complex.  For several years, state and federal highway officials have been analyzing various locations for this major limited-access facility.  The first official studies had favored an “inside” location, running roughly north and south within the corporate limits of Dayton and its southern suburbs.  The final decision, however, was to locate the new expressway outside the city limits so that it would run through the prime development area adjacent to the Air Force Base and the new university campus.

     The joint and highly organized intervention of nearly all major public and private interests, in behalf of this location, was a classic case of community cooperation in the interest of its own economic development.

      Attending the location conferences, and presenting a united front, were the Regional Transportation Committee (comprised of highway and land-use planning officials from all over the area);  The Air Force, the management of the new university, the local Chambers of Commerce, the city plan board, officials of the nearby local government jurisdictions, various leading business interests, and others.

     The main motivating factor was the unlimited economic opportunity in the neighborhood involved, and the leadership of the metropolitan area subordinated other factors to this.  Highway officials were impressed: they commented that such a highly developed local plan, with local unanimity of opinion, is rarely found in the location of major highways.  And so they concurred.

     The new expressway will leave  Interstate 75, eastward, in the area of Centerville, at the south end of the metropolitan complex; swing north across the Route 35 expressway through Beavercreek Township to the village of New Germany; turn eastward and run parallel to the south edge of the university campus (in sight of the classroom buildings); and swing around the city of Fairborn northward to Interstate 70.  It will be an unusually efficient expressway in terms of multiple usage.  It will serve through Interstate traffic which seeks to bypass Dayton on the Cleveland–Cincinnati axis; it will serve Air Force, university, and industrial commuter traffic to the northeast (Springfield) and southwest (the south suburbs of Dayton).  Above all, it will tie the new development area to the Interstate System at large, so that personnel and goods can move in and out of the area at efficient speeds and without stops.

     Finally, the problem of land itself has been given proper attention, so that investors in the area will be developing in accordance with a logical plan which protects them from sprawl, waste of land, and improper location of structures and activities.

     The territory surrounding the university and the Air Force Base is, for the most part, sparsely developed township territory.  Most of it still is under a general category of agricultural-farm residence zoning.  The local jurisdictions involved are Bath Township, Beavercreek Township, the City of Fairborn, and Greene County itself.  As far back as 1962, when the site of the new university first was announced, the business, civic, and official leaders in these jurisdictions began to analyze together the future development possibilities in the neighborhood.  They quickly arrived at the conclusion that this would become one of the nation’s outstanding locations for industrial-science activity if it were properly planned and guided in its development.

     Again, with a remarkable degree of unanimity and coordinated effort, these jurisdictions formed themselves into a regional planning commission; contributed shares of the funds required; and retained.  Carroll Hill and Associates of Columbus, planning consultants, to prepare a master plan of the area.  This intensive planning job was begun in 1963 and was completed in 1965.  The local jurisdictions now are studying and evaluating the plan, and are expected to make their future zoning decisions in accordance with it.

     The plan itself is comprehensive, setting down not only the appropriate locations for industrial-science and light industrial zones, but the most desirable layout for single-family residential, multi-family residential, commercial, and public facility uses.  Assuming that this plan is followed as the area begins to develop, all of the components of a model community will be present, in proper relationship to each other within a few years.

     Throughout the course of  these building-block activities, the leadership of the Dayton area have kept an important reality in mind: no matter how good a job is done in the planning and improving of a particular neighborhood, major investments in science and engineering still need the benefit of a strong technological environment in the surrounding metropolitan area at large.

     To put it another way, wealth begets wealth in the industrial-science locations of the country.  As one high-ranking Air Force general remarked, “scientists need to be located together in a metropolitan area in sufficient numbers so that they can read papers to each other.”  He was not joking.  More that ever before, the professional people who do research and development work want and need to cluster together in particular metropolitan areas so as to have the benefit of pooled knowledge.

     Dayton area business men decided in 1963 to make an intensive survey of the existing technological capability and its manpower, in the whole metropolitan area, to learn whether this really is a major center for such activity.  They called upon Community Research, Inc., to make the study.  The report, which came out in 1964, showed that the existing technological capability of the Dayton metropolis actually was beyond what they had imagined, both in terms of advanced and specialized manpower and in terms of the range of science and engineering disciplines involved.

     Here are a few of the salient points brought out:

(1)     There are approximately 7,000 scientists and engineers in the Dayton metropolitan area.

(2)     There are approximately 5,300 scientists and engineers actively engaged in research and development work.

(3)     Among the research and development personnel of the area, about 1,500 hold graduate-level degrees, many of them from outstanding institutes and universities over the country.

(4)     Among the engineers engaged in research and development work, there is special strength in electrical, electronic, mechanical, and aeronautical.  Among the scientists, there is particular strength in chemistry and physics.

(5)     In addition to the massive capability at Wright–Patterson Air Force Base, there are 49 industrial firms and four major research institutes which are operating permanent research and development staff programs.  These capabilities range from the advance computer and chemical research activities of the National Cash Register Company over to the Cox Memorial Coronary Heart Research Institute,  the Fels Institute (in basic factors of human behavior) the Kettering Institute (in photosynthesis and related fields) and the University of Dayton Research Institute (in a broad range of science activities.)    

An important conclusion to be drawn from this study is that the Dayton area already is rich in research and development activity, and now proposes to get richer.  The new development area east of Dayton represents only the addition of an ideally prepared location for those local enterprises who want to expand, and for still more from elsewhere who will want to come in.