The Cal Poly Technology Park, a multi-tenant building on Mt. Bishop and Highland Drive, plans on expanding by 150,000 square feet in the next 20 years. The Tech Park was established in 2010 by Cal Poly and the California Central Coast Research Partnership (C3RP).
The Tech Park, currently in its first phase at 25,000 square feet and 12 tenants, serves to foster collaboration between Cal Poly and firms on applied research projects ranging across multiple fields, such as aerospace engineering, agriculture, biotechnology and software engineering.
“The Tech Park is beneficial in that it provides more opportunities for students to work throughout their academic career with companies that align with their discipline,” Jim Dunning, the director of economic development and technology transfer, said.
Dunning said the Cal Poly Office of Research and Economic Development recently submitted an application to the U.S. Economic Development Administration for a federal grant that will possibly provide funding for half of the expansion.
The university was eligible to apply for the grant under “disaster relief” purposes as a result of the fires and flooding that have impacted the San Luis Obispo area over the past few years, Dunning said.
The expansion is estimated to cost between $400 to $500 per square foot, totaling somewhere between $60 million to $75 million, Dunning said.
In its 20-year expansionary plan, the Tech Park is projected to create 850 jobs and produce $120 million in economic impact by attracting and retaining tenants from the technology, engineering, food, agriculture and automation industries, according to Dunning.
“We figured a logical place to start would be to look at a list of the top 100 employers of Cal Poly students because [these companies] already value them. In the expansion, we will see more large companies that have recruited Cal Poly grads,” Dunning said.
The expansion is divided into four phases that would incrementally progress as both demand and funding increase. The second phase of the Tech Park, which would add another 25,000 square feet to the existing building, could be completed as soon as Fall 2021, Dunning said.
Since 2013, the Tech Park has been at 100 percent occupancy. For the past six years, Dunning estimated there has been a demand for at least 50,000 square feet in additional space.
According to Dunning, 300 Cal Poly students have gotten involved with the existing Tech Park through research projects, internships and job opportunities.
Two of the most reputable companies tenanted within the Tech Park include cloud services platform Amazon Web Services (AWS) and software engineering firm GE Digital, Dunning said.
One of the 12 tenants in the Tech Park is the Strawberry Center, a partnership between Cal Poly and the California Strawberry Commission, according to the Cal Poly Strawberry Center website.
“Our mission is to increase and support the sustainability of the strawberry industry,” Strawberry Center Director Gerald Holmes said.
According to Holmes, the Strawberry Center has raised $2.5 million in research grants, grown its team from three to 10 staff members and increased the number of research and outreach publications since its establishment in 2014.
“In every measurable way, we have increased the productivity and our impact on this industry,” Holmes said.
Another tenant in the Tech Park is SoCreate, a software company working to help screenwriters and playwrights turn their stories into scripts for film, television, YouTube or theater.
“The sooner the expansion is finished, the better,” SoCreate’s Senior Software Engineer Greg Arroyo said. “It will promote technology and software development in the San Luis Obispo area, which is currently really, really low.”
Alec Rodden, lead software engineer with SoCreate, said having a nexus of small tech companies in the expanded “Innovation Park” will provide more opportunities for networking in a convenient, central location.
Both Arroyo and Rodden said they hope with tech expansion, they also hope to see a food market built close to the park in the future.
SoCreate’s Director of Community Outreach Courtney Meznarich said she feels optimistic regarding the Tech Park’s expansion, as it will create more room for collaboration and cultivate resource- and idea-sharing between small and large technology companies.
“Since we’re smack dab in the middle of California, I could see [SoCreate] becoming a hub of a blend of the entertainment and tech industries,” Meznarich said.
Dunning encouraged companies interested in joining the waitlist for tenancy within the Tech Park can reach out to him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We hope through this expansion that our current and future tenants can stay in San Luis Obispo so we can create more higher paying careers and add to the economic activity of San Luis Obispo,” Dunning said.