California State University, Fresno’s effort to add jobs to the regional economy gets a boost with work beginning today to create a water technology and clean energy incubator on campus.
The Central Valley Business Incubator’s (CVBI) $5 million building at Chestnut and Barstow avenues will house research and design laboratories and testing and certification equipment, through a collaborative partnership with Fresno State’s International Center for Water Technology (ICWT).
The new building will also house offices for water- and energy-focused entrepreneurs and for staff helping innovators’ ideas become job-generating reality. Students will participate in the projects, learning skills and techniques that can be put to work in the industry.
The 13,000 square-foot building, across from the university’s popular Farm Market, is expected to be occupied by the end of the year.
“This facility will be another step to advance the transformation of our regional economy,” said John D. Welty, president of Fresno State. “It is a great example of a public-private partnership that will make a difference in our future.”
The concept of creating a specialized incubator housing technical experts has been in the works for several years. More recently, the new building is the result of a partnership among
the university, private industry, the Valley Congressional delegation, job-creation organizations and government that formed out of necessity as the cost to build rose faster than plans could be completed and construction begun.
The incubator is a new model for employment-development efforts, said Glenn R. Patch, chief executive officer of CVBI, a private organization that provides economic development through entrepreneurship. CVBI makes business development services available to entrepreneurs in both growing their companies and developing innovations and ideas into businesses that add local jobs.
“Specialized incubators help fill specific needs of an area and that makes them different from the generalized business incubator we will continue to operate in Clovis. This satellite incubator will allow us to focus on the synergies of two vital things in our region: water and energy,” Patch said.
Fresno State’s concept of focusing on water technology grew out of a report in 2000 that recommended forming industry clusters to work together toward the greater economic good. Water technology, one of the recommended clusters, led to development by Fresno State and industry of the International Center for Water Technology.
Claude Laval, CVBI chair and a water technology industry leader instrumental in cultivating the new incubator from idea to reality, said the region will benefit greatly from the effort.
“Since our first meeting in April 2001, we have accomplished an amazing amount through collaborative effort and we have drawn attention to the San Joaquin Valley as the focal point of this growing global industry,” said Laval, who has been a driving force in CVBI and other job-creation programs as well as in industry-university partnerships.
Dr. David Zoldoske, a Fresno State faculty member and the ICWT director, and his team have collaborated with industry on technological innovations, helping community colleges prepare skilled workers for jobs in water-related industries and developing markets on a global scale.
A key focus of the ICWT is providing educational opportunities for Fresno State students.
One important date for ICWT comes in April 2007 when water technology specialists and industry leaders from all over the world will gather on the Fresno State campus for an International Water Technology Conference.
“This is all the result of hard work by a lot of good people,” Zoldoske said about the new center. “The vision has grown from our original concept and now brings a focus beyond water to include renewable energy sources with over $400,000 worth of photovoltaic panels covering the roof of the new incubator building.”
That will push substantial electrical energy back into the campus power grid, Zoldoske said: “Imagine the meter running backward”.
It also will allow the Incubator to demonstrate that solar power is a good business investment for pumping water as an alternative to air-polluting diesel power. Patch and Laval said that’s also an example of the synergy in the specialized incubator that will help both the water and energy industries.
Energy wasn’t in the original project, but is an industry that goes hand in hand with water technology. After realizing that there are a handful of clean energy incubators throughout the United States, part of a national alliance of clean energy business incubators, both CVBI and ICWT recognized the value of adding this component to the new facility.
“One of the things you learn in entrepreneurship is that some of the best ideas are those that change dramatically along the way,” Patch said.
Of the collaboration’s result, Zoldoske said, 1 believe this concept and our partnership will take on a life of its own, and produce results beyond our current expectations.”
Among the organizations and individuals in the water/energy business partnership with the university and CVBI include, but are not limited to:
• The International Center for Water Technology at Fresno State.
• A bipartisan effort by Members of Congress George Radanovich, Devin Nunez,
Bill Thomas, Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa and former Rep. Cal Dooley.
• The U.S. Economic Development Administration, which is providing $1.8 million and requires a 20-year commitment by the university to the incubator.
• The university-based California Water Institute, Central California Futures Institute (since folded into the Office of Community and Economic Development), Center for Irrigation Technology, Business Center and Agricultural Research Initiative, all contributors to the original business plan.
• The Fresno County Workforce Investment Board, which has committed substantial resources to both the CVBI and ICWT independently.
• The Fresno Business Council, the Regional Jobs Initiative and the Economic Development Corporation serving Fresno County, all of which contributed expertise and encouragement.
• The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which have provided funding for planning and equipment.
• The water and irrigation industry which have provided private funding for the project.
• The Public Utilities Commission and Pacific Gas and Electric Company.
For more information contained in this release, please go to the following Web sites: International Center for Water Technology: www.icwt.net
Central Valley Business Incubator: www.cvbi.org