Since 1992, the Technology Center at Innovation Park has been the epicenter of the region’s most formalized small business incubation program… the “garage” to dozens of start-up companies. Schoolwires (now Blackboard), Mission Critical Partners, and Real Time Devices are just a few of the most recent companies founded in this facility that have grown and relocated to larger facilities in Innovation Park. Many others have graduated to larger facilities throughout the Centre region. In essence, the Technology Center Incubator has been and remains the home field for our community’s farm team of next generation community employers. And as with all ball parks, there comes a time when the turf needs overseeded.

Visitors and tenants of the Technology Center at Innovation Park are have been enduring temporary inconveniences with an eye on permanent improvements for the past 10  months. Following phase one completion of a two phase multi-million-dollar renovation project, tenants are now enjoying the benefits of building upgrades.

Keeping Up in a World of Tech

The Technology Center was constructed in 1992 as part of the Park’s phase 1, three building Innovation Park initiative. Its purpose is to serve as the location for Penn State’s Technology Commercialization groups, along with the Centre region small business incubation effort. The incubator was initiated in a collaboration between the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County (CBICC) and Penn State University. The space serves as an incubation facility for startups, emerging businesses, and entrepreneurial education sessions. It’s a location where like-minded people learn from and support each other.

According to Dan Leri, Director of Innovation Park Offices, the current renovation to the Technology Center is necessary to keep up with technological advances and to continue providing the resources that come with being a tenant at Innovation Park.

“In total, $2.7 million is being invested in the facility to provide necessary upgrades, such as a new roof, restrooms, lobby finishes, conference room technology amenities and commercial tenant IT service.”

“The University dedicated funding to upgrade the fit and finish of the Technology Center, along with the IT infrastructure of the building,” Leri states. “In total, $2.7 million is being invested in the facility to provide necessary upgrades, such as a new roof, restrooms, lobby finishes, conference room technology amenities and commercial tenant IT service.”

In addition to the fresh physical look of the building, the technology upgrades to the basic communication services and the audio/visual/video conferencing capabilities will permit companies to more easily conduct business. Leri is confident the new space will make the Technology Center even more appealing to new tenants, as well as meet and exceed the technological and physical needs of the current clients.

Beyond the Aesthetic Updates, More Benefits Await Tech Center Tenants

What isn’t changing is the numerous support services for startups to give them the best chance of suceeding in their early stage of development. Leri says, “a smart person learns from their mistakes. But a wise person learns from other people’s mistakes. That’s a core piece of the value proposition when a start-up team is in the Technology Center Incubation Program at Innovation Park.” An incubator company has quick reach to many resources, including the Ben Franklin TechCelerator program, offering financial, market research, business model development, sales strategy advice, marketing, and human resource support to early stage entrepreneurs; Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County; the coolBLUE program, an employee engagement program that works to provide a dynamic environment and make a positive impact on the quality of work-life; meeting space; research facilities; capital formation introductions; and access to Penn State departments and researchers on the leading edge of the latest technologies.

Michelle Cook, the CoolBlue Lady at Innovation Park, is constantly evaluating and initiating new ways to keep the tenants connected. Through networking picnics, holiday parties, field trips, lunch programs, walking and running clubs and other activities, Innovation Park is unique in how they help companies connect with each other and retain their top talents. Happy collisions between talented people is a consistent goal of the CoolBlue efforts.

“I think that one draw for tenants in the Tech Center is we are able to offer a plethora of services to they may not have available if located somewhere else,” Cook states.

Through the “happy collisions”, tenants not only get to know their neighbors better, but they also have opportunities to enhance their communication and leadership skills through programs like Toastmasters. “We’re human, we need to be with each other, we need to commune. All good things start with a conversation!”, says Cook.

This vast and incomparable networking scene is perhaps the greatest appeal for both prospective and current tenants.

“The upgrades provide a more productive work environment. Young companies need to present a professional face to potential and current customers when they visit.”

“Co-locating with dozens of other companies in various stages of development provides a community of collaborators to help grow your specific business,” Leri shares. “Each tenant company and its management group’s experience allow the less experienced folks to learn more quickly what’s needed to succeed. Forget about all the puffery you read, starting a business is not for sissies. Yet, those who manage the risk successfully help make this a great community.” The significant investment in renovations to the Technology Center will serve to enhance the already productive collaborations between the tenants.

During renovation project planning, there was a distinct focus placed on the way companies operate today. “The renovations are more reflective of today’s communication and operation style of young companies,” says Leri. “There are additional small group working areas in the common spaces for out-of-the-office suite engagements and collaborations.”

Cook also sees the changes to be beneficial for both new and prospective tenants. “We have done more to have the physical space help the companies succeed,” she explains.

Expected to be completed by the spring of 2019, the renovations to the Technology Center at Innovation Park will take their tenant companies to the next level. Leri, for one, is excited to see the changes take place.

“The upgrades provide a more productive work environment. Young companies need to present a professional face to potential and current customers when they visit. The renovations will help the image of all companies when they host clients and visitors.”

Innovation Park and the Technology Center at Penn State is far more than just real estate for those who reside there. A complete ecosystem of research, technology and office and manufacturing workspace, the network of resources available at Innovation Park, and staff focused on connecting the dots serve both early-stage entrepreneurs and established companies alike. Tenants become part of a world class research institution, with the benefits of a close-knit community.