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The Rules of (Business) Attraction

Today, about 70 companies—with staff ranging from two to more than 400 employees—occupy more than one million square feet in 23 buildings in the Tech Park under agreements that include owner-occupied and Rensselaer-owned properties. The current occupancy rate stands at close to 100 percent. But Wacholder, who has been involved in the park since working on the early feasibility studies, says it is not just the number of businesses that is notable, it’s the quality and variety of the portfolio developing on those wooded acres that stretch from Route 4 to the Hudson River.

Just two months before the first shovels went in at GE, for instance, the Tech Park welcomed the world’s most powerful university-based supercomputer when the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI) began operation. Housed in an unassuming brick building filled at this point with more hardware than humans, CCNI represents a $100 million collaboration among Rensselaer, IBM, and the state of New York.

With the supercomputer, capable of processing 70 trillion calculations every second, the center’s partners hope for nothing less than a major jolt for the local economy and a global reach that will draw a new wave of Tech Park tenants.

For the last two years WMHT Educational Telecommunications has also called the Tech Park home. In its first custom-built headquarters, the regional PBS affiliate is planning, among other things, its switch to all-digital broadcast. CEO Robert Altman says the setting is no coincidence.

“We’re all about the intersection of communication, education, and technology, which is certainly the same space that RPI occupies,” says Altman. “Particularly since so much of what we hope to do is in partnership with other kinds of institutions, it’s that much easier if we’re all in the same place.”

Other developments include the arrival in 2005 of the Children’s Museum of Science and Technology, formerly the Junior Museum of Troy. Occupying about 12,000 feet, the museum guides visitors through a circular route designed to entice without overwhelming.

At the other end of the continuum at 210,000 square feet is MapInfo, which has become a global leader in what the company calls “location intelligence solutions.” The company grew from the concept developed by four Rensselaer undergraduates in a technological entrepreneurship class to a multinational corporation with expertise in desktop mapping software that recently was purchased by Pitney Bowes for more than $400 million.

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GE Healthcare is the new tenant on an aggressive schedule to complete its $165 million 150,000-square-foot facility at the Rensselaer Technology Park. General Electric’s debut into the Tech Park brings together two Capital Region powerhouses that have collaborated for more than a century.

Rising like a giant silvery igloo, its second Tech Park location, Pitney Bowes Software, as it is now called, might be considered the “anchor.” This year its workforce is expected to grow to between 500 and 600, prompting the addition of a self-contained medical clinic. Recent success, ironically, is also measured in those fledgling businesses that have grown up and left the nest under the Rensselaer aegis. Among these is Vicarious Visions, the video games developer also created by Rensselaer students that first located in the Incubator. While a Tech Park tenant, the company grew from 12 to 110 employees and produced some of the most popular video games in the industry. In 2006, Activision bought Vicarious Visions and moved it into a new building across the river in Menands. The company credits the Tech Park with mapping out space that allowed expansion.

“To an extent, success is measured by how we contribute to the growth of the technology sector of the Capital Region,” says Wacholder. “If a company came to the park and later went to Saratoga or Latham or Albany, that’s an incredible success. We’re not building a project just so RPI can hold on to it. We are helping to build a technology focus for the regional economy.”

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.