Members discuss the importance of organizing students and local businesses to better both sides. Courtesy Photo.

The Cal Poly Tech Park, imagined by Cal Poly and the California Central Coast Research Partnership (C3RP), officially opened Wednesday, Oct. 27. The park will provide a new opportunity for students to get real life experience, interaction and jobs from local companies.

According to the C3RP website, the Tech Park is a 25,000 square feet multi-tenant building with 20,000 square feet of net-leasable space for companies located on Mt. Bishop Road and Highland Drive. It was envisioned to make a tie between the industry, students and faculty.

Jim Dunning, the project administrator for C3RP, said the facility was financed from a $2.1 million grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), as well as with “debt.” Congresswoman Lois Capps helped to acquire $300,000 of this grant and spoke at the unveiling and ribbon cutting ceremony for the facility, according to a Cal Poly press release. Though the Tech Park aims to allow benefits to the students, the money from the leases of the building go to operations and paying off the debt.

However, Dunning said the partnerships with the tenants of the Tech Park provide a way for “private technology based companies to collaborate with our faculty and students for applied research and development projects.” However, the leases do not make it a “legal obligation” for tenants to collaborate with students and faculty, Dunnings said.

In addition, Dunning said the park is aimed to provide students a route to employment, while also providing the chance to solve “real world problems from a technical standpoint.” The companies, Dunning said, are looking for the quality Cal Poly provides.

“I know (the Tech Park tenants) value the level the students are (and) the high quality of the students,” Dunning said. “They all have hiring needs and project based needs… so (there are) a lot of opportunities for students to fill those gaps, to fill those needs.”

Currently, there are five tenants: Applied Biotechnology Institute (ABI), which “provides research and consulting services for private companies, government institutions and NGO’s,” Applied Technology Associates (ATA), which “designs, builds and manufactures oil industry technology products,” CuotoSolutions, which is a software development company “specializing” in custom databases for other businesses and companies,” WorthMonkey, which is a “bluebook for used electronics and more” and Platinum Performance, which is a nutrition company for horses, humans and other animals; according to their respective websites.

Dunning said there is still more space to be leased — approximately 6,000 square feet of the larger labs, which range from 2,500 square feet each, and 3,500 square feet of smaller lab space, which range 300 to 500 square feet each, remain unoccupied. This enables fledgling companies to lease out the small labs when getting their companies started. Students that come up with marketable companies themselves could lease out spaces, though Dunning said some senior projects “are not ready for market.”

“We will partner with the news center for innovation and entrepreneurship on campus to help identify those student projects and maybe get a couple of them into the Tech Park as businesses,” Dunning said.

Dunning also said some of the tenants in the Tech Park are actually alumni, including Platinum Performance, WorthMonkey and Couto Solutions, as well as the “Vice-President for engineering for ATA,” showing what former student-led companies can achieve.

The tenants also thought the expertise of Cal Poly students is the primary reasons for leasing at the Tech Park. John Howard, the founder and President of ABI, said the quality of employees was one of the major reasons to lease a spot.

“The main reasons are … access to well qualified students (and) access to Cal Poly faculty for collaborations on multi-discipline projects (such as research opportunities),” Howard said.

Justin Couto, CEO of Couto Solutions, also said having easy access to the students was a main reason for choosing to lease in the Tech Park.

“It’s going to be more and more difficult for us to find the talent we need,” Couto said. “So, by being involved with the school and being on campus, we feel that it would be easier to hire interns and part-time students.”

Couto also said by “getting to know the students while they’re in school and before they graduate,” it would create more exposure for Couto Solutions, as well as keeping the  candidates in the area.

“We know that there are a lot of people that are going to school that are qualified and … when they graduate, they end up moving away,” Couto said. “We know that a lot of kids would prefer to stay in the area, but don’t feel there’s any jobs (here).”

Dunnings said the Tech Park provides the perfect reason for students to stay in the area.

“This is a great place to live and people (start) their companies here and want to stay here, so we hope that students will be able to find full-time employment too through the relationship with the companies that are there,” Dunnings said. “They can stay on after they graduate and maybe be able to stay in the area.”

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