Technology incubator in the works
November 18, 2012
Carson City’s dreams of developing a high-tech business incubator are moving forward in a partnership between the Northern Nevada Development Authority and Steve Neighbors of the Carson Nugget.The original City Center project was a joint effort between the Nugget and Carson City officials. But voters rejected the sales tax needed to finance the plan’s anchor. “This is a separate project that is moving forward on its own,” said Rob Hooper, executive director of NNDA, of the tentatively named Carson City Tech Center and Accelerator. “We will revitalize the downtown regardless of the vote.”NNDA is working with the Hop & Mae Adams Foundation, which Neighbors manages, to finance the tech center in the former Stewart Title Co. building on Carson Street.The plan is to create a launching pad for technology companies that the city hopes will create good jobs and fuel the capital’s economy.Plans are to refurbish and open the 1960s vintage building sometime in the second half of 2013. Architect Robert Darney the idea is to create a flexible, energy-efficient space that can be easily and quickly reconfigured for a variety of tenants. “Biggest thing we discovered is the space has to be flexible,” said Darney.The exterior will be “reskinned,” said Darney, replacing the glass front on Carson Street with brick and stucco to mimic facades of buildings in the surrounding area. The building’s recognizable exterior sign will remain.Darney said the request for proposals to do the remodel have been sent to a half dozen, Northern Nevada construction firms. NNDA officials say they are already negotiating with companies interested in being the first tenants, including Say Design Inc. , a games and applications developer now based in southern California, a digital video production company, and SunScience Corp., the Reno-based maker of building control systems SunScience plans to put in a lighting-management system at the Carson City center that can save money for its users, and can be used as a showcase for the company’s technology.“What we’re building is a very unique network that manages everything down to the light bulbs,” said Dick Kelsey, SunScience president and chief executive officer. “When new tenants come in it will be easy to move overhead lighting in five minutes.”The system also manages the building’s energy consumption, reducing costs by lowering peak energy use that utilities use to calculate charges.“We’re developing systems so it will be a place where you really want to be,” Kelsey said. “Systems like this are in the buildings like Empire State Building. We’re looking at doing it for small to medium-sized buildings.”Although NNDA is still working out the terms of contracts for tenants, Hooper said rent will be based on a company’s income and designed to give the upstarts a leg up.“If there’s no income, there’s no rent,” he said.Hooper said companies stay an average of 18 months in similar accelerators located elsewhere. He said the old title building will be able to house up to eight businesses, depending on their size.He said the goal is to see the companies thrive and establish themselves in this area. Besides providing modern space, and a break on the rent, the project will offer tenants and other local tech startups pro bono business help. Hooper said the NNDA has 300 local professionals, including lawyers and accountants, serving on 13 different committees that he expects to make time for the center’s businesses.