Erickson to construct building at UMBC site

BUSINESS DIGEST

November 21, 2006|By Allison Connolly | Allison Connolly,Sun reporter

Erickson Retirement Communities plans to build a $20 million building in the research park at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to house its information technology services, charitable foundation and Retirement Living TV, which is nationally broadcast via Comcast and DirecTV.

The Catonsville-based developer of independent and assisted living communities will employ 60 full-time professionals in addition to about a dozen student interns from UMBC each year. The 110,000-square-foot building should be completed in 2008 and would be the fifth in the 41-acre research park, which is on the university's Catonsville campus.

Erickson has strong ties to the university. Two years ago, the company established the Erickson School of Aging Studies with a $5 million gift and matching state funds. In September, the school began offering an undergraduate management program in aging services. About 100 students are enrolled, and 42 have declared it a major, said Lonny Blessing, the Erickson school's director of program administration. The school also offers an executive education program for senior housing and health care professionals. By next September, the school hopes to offer a graduate degree, he said.

"Having a building at the research park will enhance that relationship," said Ellen Hemmerly, executive director of the UMBC Research Park Corp.

The Erickson School's students are required to do internships, and Erickson has employed 100 of them over the past two years, said Chief Operating Officer Mark Erickson. Last summer, interns developed a touch-screen computer application that allows residents to sign out when they leave the building for an out-of-town trip.

Erickson said the company wants to hire about 120 new graduates next year for the company's 18-month operations associate training program. "The school "has a great business relationship, giving the students experience in the real world," he said.

John C. Erickson, Erickson's father, founded the company in 1983, converting St. Charles Seminary in Catonsville into Charlestown, Erickson's flagship community, and remains chairman and chief executive officer. By next year, the privately held company will have 18 retirement communities in 10 states. Erickson employs 10,000 people across the country, including medical staff.

Each campus has independent, assisted living and long-term care apartments for 2,000 middle-income residents.

Housing was just the beginning for the Erickson company, which is building a media enterprise. Retirement Living TV is aimed at people age 55 and older, a growing demographic that Erickson believes is ignored. Erickson's programming has evolved from a closed-circuit loop at the communities detailing volunteer opportunities and daily menu choices to a network with an audience of 24 million and original daily content.

UMBC's New Media Studio will produce two new shows for the network, Blessing said. The company also publishes a newspaper for retirees, called The Erickson Tribune, which is mailed to 3 million households.

allison.connolly@baltsun.com

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