Jeff Thompson, the CEO of Knowledge Park in Fredericton, has suddenly resigned from the company after serving almost 10 years in various leadership roles.Submitted

The acting CEO of a high tech business park in Fredericton has suddenly quit, citing differences with the direction the sprawling campus is going.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday, Jeff Thompson announced he was resigning after serving in a voluntary role for almost 10 years on the board of directors for Knowledge Park, a business park that serves the high-tech industry in the provincial capital. He was board chairperson twice.

Along with relinquishing the directorship on the five-member board, he’s also quit as acting CEO, a job he had since October 2022 and was unpaid until two months ago. 

“I can’t say much beyond what I posted in the letter,” Thompson, 53, told Brunswick News on Tuesday. “I put in months and months of energy into something, and there comes a point where you just need to say, ‘I can’t devote my volunteer time to something where we don’t have all our oars in the water rowing in the same direction.’” 

The resignation letter stated that Thompson and another unnamed board director had over the last four years dedicated themselves to exploring options to chart a new path forward for Knowledge Park, given dramatic changes in the tech sector. 

“A board member’s fiduciary responsibility is to act in the company’s and its shareholders’ best interests,” Thompson wrote. “Recognizing these changes, a new direction for the Knowledge Park was proposed in early 2023 and had the full support of the board of directors and community stakeholders. 

“I was encouraged and excited; it was the first time in four years that all the boxes had been ticked! The encouragement and excitement quickly evaporated.” 

Thompson said he couldn’t get into the details of what had happened except to say that someone’s position changed that surprised almost everyone. 

“While I respect that positions can change, the abrupt change is tough to accept after devoting countless hours, days, and weeks to a shared mission and purpose that would benefit all involved, including the community,” he wrote. 

“Given the events of the past few weeks, I can no longer invest my time, energy, and devotion where openness and transparency aren’t valued in actions, not only in words.”

Knowledge Park’s sprawling area is still wooded and undeveloped, with the exception of a new $37-million Cyber Centre located between the original cluster of buildings and the Grant-Harvey soccer field. 

But the Cyber Centre still has lots of space to lease – on Knowledge Park’s website, it states nearly 70,000 square feet is still available, with only the first floor fully occupied. 

Meanwhile, at its original campus closer to the Regent Mall, close to 42,000 square feet are still advertised to lease in five buildings. 

That means about one-third of “more than 300,000 square feet of high-quality, executive office space” in a district hub and high-tech cluster that it boasts on its website is empty.

City Coun. Bruce Grandy, who is the chairperson at Ignite, the region’s economic development agency, said he had heard there had been trouble brewing at Knowledge Park but he wasn’t comfortable airing the details.

“I’m not on that board and I wasn’t there, but I know Jeff personally,” he said Tuesday. “And he decided to resign because of the things going on there.” 

The councillor said Knowledge Park hadn’t taken off like it was expected to when it started in 1997 as a 35-acre innovation hub. 

“It’s lost its focus,” Grandy said. 

Thompson, who sold two tech start-ups early on his business career, said he wasn’t sure if he was ready to retire. He is still a volunteer on the board of the Fredericton Marathon, and he does international business consulting. 

“There’s huge potential at Knowledge Park that could be unlocked by taking a slightly different view,” he said. 

“Not by abandoning what the park is today, which is a commercial business park, with some great tenants, but there’s tremendous opportunity to release the full potential of that space. It’s a great space for mixed-used development, whether it’s commercial real estate, residential or more retail like you see at the Costco across the street. That’s huge potential at the heart of the city.”

By John Chilibeck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 03, 2024 at 07:33

This item reprinted with permission from   The Daily Gleaner   Fredericton, New Brunswick

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