Kelly Kline
Economic Development Director

This post, titled “An advanced manufacturing innovation district grows in Sheffield, England” by Bruce Katz and Kelly Kline originally posted on the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program website on March 25, 2015 Recently the two of us traveled to Sheffi…

This post, titled “An advanced manufacturing innovation district grows in Sheffield, England” by Bruce Katz and Kelly Kline originally posted on the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program website on March 25, 2015

Recently the two of us traveled to Sheffield, England to explore an intriguing question: Can a city and metropolis apply the innovation district model to advanced manufacturing? The answer is a resounding yes.

In June 2014 Brookings published The Rise of Innovation Districtsa report that captures a rising development dynamic in which large companies, small entrepreneurs, and advanced research institutions all commingle in dense urban areas rich with housing, public transit, and amenities or in exurban science parks that are rapidly urbanizing. Think Kendall Square in Cambridge, Mass. or University City in Philadelphia, or the new urban vision for Research Triangle Park outside Raleigh-Durham, N.C. These innovation districts are powered by companies, large and small, conducting high-value research or engaged in creative endeavors like industrial design or architecture. Such companies derive great benefit from their close proximity to universities and medical campuses and the talented workers and research ideas these anchor institutions generate.

At first blush, the dynamism we associate with innovation districts might seem to be at odds with the rigid, grinding processes that come to mind when we think of manufacturing.  Even advanced manufacturing appears ill-suited for the mixed, spatially dense, often chaotic environment of innovation districts. Advanced manufacturing is often characterized by isolated, dispersed factories and facilities, large building floor plates (often single story), proximity to traditional highway infrastructure for the efficient movement of goods, and a workforce that is more likely to be tethered to the factory floor than the networking opportunities at the local coffee shop.

Yet, advanced manufacturing has mastered the innovation side of the innovation district phenomenon. Indeed, advanced manufacturing is one of the most innovative sectors in the U.S. and the U.K. To compete with lower-wage and lower-cost countries, advanced manufacturers in mature economies rely heavily on continuous innovation in products and processes via applied research; large capital expenditures in sophisticated plant, technology, and equipment; automation of the manufacturing process through robotics; and a highly skilled workforce.

Our visit to Sheffield convinced us that advanced manufacturing, despite its distinctive “manufacturing” characteristics, may be evolving in a way that embraces the principles, and even some of the physical dimensions, of innovation districts.

The city of Sheffield and its neighboring town of Rotherham harbor a rich, textured network of advanced manufacturing companies that continue to excel in precision engineering and the supply of high-quality customized parts to firms in sectors like aerospace and energy. This is an intensely specialized bespoke manufacturing that has, as Keith Ridgeway of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) described, “no room for error” given the safety issues associated with airplanes, nuclear power, and complex oil and gas exploration. We visited several companies—Sheffield Forgemasters International, Aloca (previously Firth Rixson), and Newburgh Precision—to see firsthand the evolution of manufacturing and its reliance on sophisticated technology, space-age machines, and skilled workers. Each of these advanced companies and many others operate under a common brand, “Made in Sheffield,” which reflects the historic legacy and current pride associated with making things.

The advanced manufacturing companies in Sheffield and Rotherham make up an innovation ecosystem that draws from a pool of talented workers and applied research. The ecosystem is centered at the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP), built on the site of a former coal mine. The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at the park contains an impressive array of specialized facilities, each dedicated to providing advanced manufacturing companies in the region and beyond access to industrial expertise, cutting-edge machines and equipment, and, ultimately, solutions to complex technological challenges. The facilities we visited—all modern in design and sporting world-class infrastructure and equipment—are a result of a close collaboration between the University of Sheffield and over 100 leading research and development (R&D) and production companies including Boeing, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, Hitachi, Tata, Forgemasters, Mori Seiki, Dormer Tools, Sanvik Coromant, and Castings Technology International. The park houses two of the U.K.’s seven high-value manufacturing catapult centers and is part of the region’s enterprise zone (providing companies with various tax incentives).

As is common in innovation districts, the park includes an incubator facility, which houses 150 small and medium-sized enterprises in areas such as industrial design and information and communications technology. These companies are benefiting from the proximity to new research and collaboration between high-quality engineering and manufacturing companies; one company said that it regarded the park as the elite “Mayfair” address for advanced manufacturing. We were particularly struck by a company called Iceotope, whose liquid-cooled data servers stand to disrupt traditional data farms by radically reducing the energy needed to maintain temperature control.

As a sign of things to come, AMP also houses a state-of-the-art training center, which provides apprenticeship opportunities to 250 individuals a year in an effort to bridge the engineering skills gap.

We were impressed with the nature, scope, and scale of the corporate offerings and sheer number and size of the applied research facilities in the Advanced Manufacturing Park. In a relatively short period of time, the park has emerged as a compact and centralized anchor for the broad network of manufacturing companies in the Sheffield/Rotherham area. In many respects, AMP embodies the core economic focus of innovation districts: routine collaboration across government, universities, and private-sector companies in sectors that are fueled by technologically advanced R&D and highly skilled workers. The park’s inclusion of apprentice training on site reinforces the fact that many of the jobs in the “tech sector” require workers with skills and credentials that can be obtained without receiving a degree from a four-year university.

As cities, companies, and universities proceed with the designation of advanced manufacturing innovation districts, several strategies are worth considering.

First, engage a task force. The Sheffield advanced manufacturing ecosystem and its burgeoning innovation district have evolved in smart ways over the past decade. A strong foundation has been set for future growth and development. One way to catalyze this would be to appoint a group of stakeholders—high-level representatives from the university, city government, and the private sector—to take stock of market momentum and recommend actions for the next stage. In Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan is pursuing this path. Using his convening power as mayor, he has created an Innovation District Task Force that is headed by the head of the Henry Ford Health System and comprises representatives from key public, private, and civic institutions.

Second, collect evidence and set a vision. In Detroit and elsewhere, leaders are examining the economic, physical, and networking assets of their innovation districts in order to discern their distinctive competitive advantages and set a plan for future growth. This asset audit helps determine the right geography for an innovation district. A tour of Sheffield revealed the existence of an “innovation triangle” connecting the park, key companies in the broader Don Valley, and the city center’s downtown area—with its ample amenities, university campuses, and focus on creative design. To this end, the Advanced Manufacturing Park appears to be the fulcrum of a broader innovation district rather than the sum total.

Third, design specific strategies to achieve your goals that are supported by a strong land-use plan. Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Park does not yet have the vibrancy and urbanity of city-centered innovation districts that congregate around advanced research institutions like MIT or Carnegie Mellon or Drexel University. In other words, there is no sense of “place” in the park. In our view, attention to simple amenities like walking paths, bike lanes, and green spaces as well as the programming of public spaces (for occasional lectures and gatherings) would go a long way toward not only humanizing the park but also enhancing its potential for innovative discoveries and progress. This is exactly the kind of “urbanization” that is being designed for exurban science parks like North Carolina’sResearch Triangle Park. Additionally, the Advanced Manufacturing Park is separated by highway infrastructure from the Sheffield Business Park, which contains many complementary assets, including the AMRC’s Factory 2050 (which is currently being built). Improving the connectivity between the two parks is another element of the smart place-making that is essential to realizing the full innovation potential of the companies, researchers, and supportive institutions located in this relatively compact area of the region. Establishing this connectivity may also lend itself to the area becoming an active corridor along which a mix of uses (housing, travel accommodations, and retail) could organize themselves.

Fourth, insist on smart national policy. In some cases, that might mean additional, large-scale, targeted investments from central government in infrastructure and R&D. In other cases, that might mean more ambitious devolution of powers to the Sheffield City Region—to raise its own revenues and exert more control over how national resources are used, better aligning funding with the specific needs and opportunities of its distinctive economy.

In all cases, the advanced manufacturing innovation district would benefit from the national government and local stakeholders working together, as equal partners, to realize the full potential of this distinctive economy. The experience of New York City’s Applied Science Initiative (and the specific attraction of Cornell University and Technion University to Roosevelt Island) illustrates how cities benefit from the expansion of their stock of advanced institutions, whether global companies or research institutes. Perhaps Sheffield, working closely with the national government, should issue a global request for proposals to augment its enviable position in high-quality advanced manufacturing.

Fifth, realize the benefits from sharing best practices, cross-promotion, and collaboration with other emerging innovation districts that are anchored by advanced manufacturing.Fremont, Calif., which is home to Tesla’s electric vehicle manufacturing operation, is one such example. Fremont has instituted a unique land-use plan to support innovation district goals by addressing and incentivizing a mixed-use public realm, connectivity, and open space. We expect there will be more examples over time given the importance of advanced industries to the global economy and the implicit need to revitalize the outmoded industrial park. To the extent that this new prototype is possible, cities like Sheffield and Fremont will lead the way, and a team approach will strengthen their efforts.

The challenge of cities in mature economies is to be the best 21st century version of themselves. Our visit to Sheffield convinced us that there is a strong base for a globally significant innovation economy and a strong rationale for spatially organizing that economy in ways that recognize the common attributes of innovation districts—integration, proximity, density, connectivity, and quality place-making. The region, in other words, has a good hand to play and, most importantly, appears ready to act with intention, purpose, and ambition. These are the right ingredients for the kind of advanced economy that is a prerequisite for broad-based prosperity. 

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Exterior of the University of Sheffield Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) 

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Category: Fremont



Bill Harrison
Mayor, City of Fremont

Last Friday, it sure felt like spring in the City of Fremont. I had the honor of delivering our annual State of the City address at a luncheon hosted by the Fremont Chamber of Commerce at the ever-gracious Fremont Marriott Silicon Valley.   This is an ev…

Last Friday, it sure felt like spring in the City of Fremont. I had the honor of delivering our annual State of the City address at a luncheon hosted by the Fremont Chamber of Commerce at the ever-gracious Fremont Marriott Silicon Valley.  

This is an event I look forward to each year – it serves as a unique opportunity for all cross sections of Fremont community to gather, connect, and share their experiences.  It’s not often that you’re able to find members from the Economic Development team, our Police and Fire Chiefs, the Superintendent of the Fremont Unified School District, and representatives from companies that have chosen to call Fremont home – all together in one location.

As we reflect on our successes in 2014 and look ahead at the remainder of 2015, it’s clear that Fremont is no longer the Bay Area’s “best-kept secret.” We’re coming into our own.

  • Significant expansions by companies like Delta, Seagate, Lam Research, Western Digital, and ThermoFisher have totaled nearly $500 million of private investment in the Fremont community.
  • We’re grabbing national headlines in top publications like CNET, The Washington Post and Bloomberg, among others.
  • Solar City leased the former Solyndra facility to house its Silevo panel division, a move that speaks volumes for Fremont’s cleantech sector and the continued growth of the Warm Springs Innovation District.
  • The Crossings is set to extend Fremont Boulevard to Dixon Landing Road, creating a significant new commuter connection to Silicon Valley.
  • The city’s Warm Springs/South Fremont BART station is coming closer to completion and is slated to open in December 2015.

During the address, we revisited our National Manufacturing Day Infographic, highlighting America’s great manufacturing comeback and all the exciting developments happening right here in Fremont. Believe it or not, manufacturing is a defining characteristic of Fremont’s Innovation District strategy. With over 900 companies across 185 industries, manufacturing right here in Fremont, we’re making things happen.

And if you want to learn more about our City’s recent successes and what we see for the future of Fremont, we’ve posted the speech and slides on the City website for your viewing pleasure. You can find it all at www.Fremont.gov/StateoftheCity. We also plan to post the webcast of the State of the City address later this week.

Thanks to all who made this year’s State of the City such an excellent affair. And a special thanks to all our City employees for pushing Fremont forward and making these achievements possible. 

 

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Click on the image to download the full presentation. 

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Category: Fremont

Big Milestone in Warm Springs — Lennar’s Master Plan Approved



Cliff Nguyen
Urban Initiatives Manager

A new chapter in Fremont’s history is about to be written with the addition of more jobs, housing, and supporting development close to the new Warm Springs BART station that is scheduled to open in December 2015. Back in July 2014, the City approved the W…

A new chapter in Fremont’s history is about to be written with the addition of more jobs, housing, and supporting development close to the new Warm Springs BART station that is scheduled to open in December 2015. Back in July 2014, the City approved the Warm Springs Community Plan. And, last week the Fremont City Council approved a master plan and development agreement with Lennar to build a large-scale, mixed-use project in the heart of the district. 

The agreement is crucial to transform 111 acres of vacant land north of the Tesla Factory from what was once slated to become a Union Pacific rail yard to a vibrant, strategically urban center with 2,214 housing units and 1.4M square feet of Class A office/industrial space. The development also includes an elementary school, urban park, public plazas and the development of “Innovation Way”, an east-west street connecting the BART station area to Fremont Blvd., and the primary internal roadway for the development project. The master plan will create 4,100 new direct jobs and spur investment in the area. The master plan approval is a key milestone for Lennar’s purchase agreement with Union Pacific. 

Given the vast size of the project, Lennar has proposed four phases for the development. Phase 1 begins in the spring of 2016 with the construction of the backbone infrastructure. This phase includes the construction of Innovation Way, North-South Streets, Lopes Court, and Industrial Drive. Phase 2 will see the building of affordable housing units, the elementary school, urban parks and plazas. Phases 3 and 4 will lead to the completion of the market-rate multi-family units for the project.

Lennar’s development is significant because it will provide the infrastructure for R&D and commercial development. The company’s upfront investment in schools, parks, public plazas, and roads is estimated to exceed $100M. Additionally, Lennar’s catalytic project will leverage other public improvements such as a pedestrian bridge over the Union Pacific rail spur. 

This is a giant step forward in Fremont’s plans to become a “strategically urban” community and build on the Innovation District prototype that has been taking shape in South Fremont.

 

 

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Category: Warm Springs



Aaron Goldsmith
Director of Government and Community Affairs

More than 40 small business owners assembled recently at the Fremont Chamber of Commerce’s recent IT Security for Small Business Forum at Unitek College to learn how to better protect themselves and their businesses from online threats. The Forum’s paneli…

More than 40 small business owners assembled recently at the Fremont Chamber of Commerce’s recent IT Security for Small Business Forum at Unitek College to learn how to better protect themselves and their businesses from online threats. The Forum’s panelists included Fremont Police Chief Richard Lucero, Fremont Police Detective Ken Bryant, Planet Magpie owner Robert Douglas, Navraj Bawa of Unitek College and an agent from the FBI. The panel stressed two major themes in regard to how business owners should approach the topic of security in the near future.   

Common Sense — In his First Word statement, Chief Richard Lucero stressed that 25 percent of residential burglaries are crimes of opportunity, in which the criminals enter a residence through an unlocked window or door. The clear analogy to IT security is that many individuals and businesses expose themselves to risk by leaving their “doors unlocked.” IT security is one part common sense and one part sound business practice.

Other panelists echoed the chief’s sentiments throughout the discussion. Whether it’s sharing passwords with coworkers, thoughtlessly plugging in USB drives to networked devices, or opening that email purporting to have come from your bank, IT security is akin to the common sense protections we use all the time in the physical world. If you lock up the office at the end of the day to keep unwanted visitors out, why would you click to invite them into your digital office space?

Chekhov’s Gun — As a corollary to common sense, the panel was in agreement that flaws in security can function much like Anton Chekhov’s famous gun. The author believed, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.” Panelists reminded attendees that IT security lapses will always become eventual problems. For example, an Internet-connected device without anti-virus software will eventually pick up a virus. The cost of dealing with an IT security breach can cost a business thousands of dollars and numerous business days, not to mention the priceless damage done to a business’s reputation and client relationships. If the costs are high and the threat a given, IT security is an essential facet to managing a business.

Business owners need to protect themselves and prepare for breaches in their security systems. The Fremont Chamber is available to support the business community in making informed security choices in the 21st century. For more information, visit us online at www.FremontBusiness.com/ITsecurity

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Kelly Kline
Economic Development Director

In the midst of rising uncertainty about the health and long-term stability of our nation’s economy, a new study from the Brookings Institution on America’s Advanced Industries finds that a renewed and sustained investment in this sector is what’s going t…

In the midst of rising uncertainty about the health and long-term stability of our nation’s economy, a new study from the Brookings Institution on America’s Advanced Industries finds that a renewed and sustained investment in this sector is what’s going to save America’s economic future. The report calls on business leaders, government, and the civic sector to work together in new ways to boost their economic vitality.

Of course, the premise of this call to action strikes right at the heart of Fremont’s strategic and holistic approach in transforming the Warm Springs Innovation District into a world-class industrial innovation eco-system. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be taking a closer look at key findings in the report and comparing how our efforts here at home stack up against what is happening on a national level.

So, what qualifies as an industry as “advanced” anyway?

According to the report, advanced industries encompass 50 industries, ranging from automotive and aerospace, to energy industries such as oil and gas extraction, to high-tech services, such as computer and software and system design. These industries are characterized by their deep involvement with technology research and development (R&D) and STEM (science technology, engineering and math) careers.

Here’s a look at some of the report’s key findings:

  • In 2013, the advanced industries sector employed 9 percent (12.3 million) of the country’s workers, but produced 17 percent ($2.7 trillion) of the country’s GDP.
  • The sector employs 80 percent of the nation’s engineers, performs 90 percent of private-sector R&D, generates approximately 85 percent of all U.S. patents, and accounts for 60 percent of U.S. exports.
  • Every new advanced industries job creates an additional 2.2 “domestic” jobs — 0.8 locally and 1.4 outside of the region. So directly and indirectly, the sector supports almost 39 million jobs — nearly 25 percent of all U.S. employment!
  • In 2013, the average AI worker earned $90,000, nearly twice as much as the average worker in other industries.

The report findings resonate strongly in Fremont, perhaps more so than many places, given that advanced industries are the prime drivers of growth for our economy. Companies like Tesla, Boehringer Ingelheim, and Lam Research are delivering products and services in industries ranging from cleantech to life sciences and contributing to the City’s B2B taxes, workforce, and gross regional product.

Take a look at the economic impact of the advanced industries in Fremont:

  • In Fremont, advanced manufacturing accounts for 23 percent of the City’s total workforce, but generates close to 30 percent its Gross Regional Product.1
  • In Alameda County, 41.5 percent of all manufacturing jobs are in Fremont and salaries are 23.7 percent higher.2
  • Fremont is home to 889 firms in 185 industries that employ 26,650 workers in manufacturing.3
  • In recent years, Fremont has seen $500 million worth of private investment in new and existing large-scale manufacturing facilities by companies like Tesla Motors, Seagate, Lam Research, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Western Digital.4 
  • In the period 2012-2014, one-third of all patents issued to Fremont companies related to manufacturing.5

In our next installment, we’ll be examining the importance of investing in the future of STEM careers as a way to help bridge the economic divide and extend economic opportunities to the middle class. Stay tuned!

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Sources:
1. Alameda County WIB
2. Alameda County WIB
3.Dunn & Bradstreet provided by Manex
4. City of Fremont
5. Query on http://www.uspto.gov/
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Category: Fremont



Grace Karr
Education Management Professional and Boardmember of the Fremont Cultural Arts Council

With well regarded schools and a recent ranking as the second most inventive city in the US, the city of Fremont has the ingredients of a thriving Maker Education scene. Yet a quick scan of the official Maker Education clubs in the nine Bay Area counties …

With well regarded schools and a recent ranking as the second most inventive city in the US, the city of Fremont has the ingredients of a thriving Maker Education scene. Yet a quick scan of the official Maker Education clubs in the nine Bay Area counties shows that out of the 40 listed sites, none are located in Fremont. Why is this? Let’s examine the importance of “Maker Ed” and ideas for better integrating this movement into our city and the K-12 curriculum.  

First, it may help to describe the Maker Movement, which gained momentum after the first Maker Faire was held in San Mateo in 2006. Makers create, build, and invent things by using tools such as robotics, 3-D printing, electronics, soldering irons, arts and crafts, etc.  Since many tools are now available to consumers that once were once only found in factories, people have the freedom to “manufacture” at the individual level.  The Maker movement is similar to the DIY scene, though it often includes STEM fields in addition to art (which changes the acronym to STEAM).  I consider the “Art” to be a crucial element because it brings in the creativity, the self-expression, and the “thinking out of the box” to the process that can lead to more innovative outcomes and deeper learning. 

Maker Education brings these same types of projects to young people, helping them to learn through hands-on, self-directed projects.  This approach can inspire children in subjects such as science, taking them beyond abstract knowledge, and providing concrete learning experiences. Simply put, building things can be incredibly fun and engaging for young makers.   It also helps students to synthesize and understand multiple subjects in more complex ways than they could get from, for example, a worksheet.  While making things with our hands has become much less commonplace than it used to be, activities such as taking machines apart and tinkering with materials provides a valuable foundation for many fields such as engineering and architecture.

The act of creating concrete objects is essentially a problem solving process, and so learning how to find solutions is another nice outcome of Maker Education.  Maker Education often goes hand in hand with teaching students to use “Design Thinking”.  This framework helps formalize the problem solving and creative processes used in Maker Education.  It is used as a tool in many real world settings, for example, in urban planning.  Stanford's business school has a course in Design Thinking to help executives learn the steps to being innovative.  Learning Design Thinking can promote some useful skills in students of all ages, such as learning to collaborate with others, brainstorm solutions, provide feedback, create prototypes, among other real world skills. 

The Maker Movement seems to be surging in popularity, with even the Whitehouse holding a Maker Faire in June of last year.  As new Maker summer camps, clubs, and afterschool programs form throughout the Bay Area, I am hopeful to find one close enough that my son can attend.  Given Fremont’s emphasis on clean technology and advanced manufacturing, I look forward to supporting efforts to bring our City’s unique flavor to Maker Education.  With new plans for expansion of Fremont’s Innovation District in Warm Springs, now is the time to lay the groundwork for tomorrow’s workforce. 

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Category: Fremont



Raul Saavedra
Senior Asset Manager, Digital Realty

For economic developers, engaging the City’s major property owners is just as important for business development as marketing to the industry, developers, and brokers. Understanding investment strategies that drive an owner’s marketing/leasing decisions i…

For economic developers, engaging the City’s major property owners is just as important for business development as marketing to the industry, developers, and brokers. Understanding investment strategies that drive an owner’s marketing/leasing decisions is critical since we support these efforts. We recently sat down with Digital Realty to talk about its Fremont portfolio, including some exciting new leases and the opportunity that its Ardenwood facilities represent.

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1. Digital Realty is known as one of the largest data center facility owners globally. So, what drives the decision to acquire and hold other types of assets — including your buildings in Fremont?

In this case, it is a legacy asset. This was one of our first properties and pre-dates our current focus on data center space. The highest and best use of this campus is to keep it in its current form as office space/R&D/manufacturing, so we are committed to leasing it as such. We had a good tenant, but since it vacated, we are looking forward to securing our next great tenant!

2. To that end, let’s talk about some of the exciting lease announcements you’ve had in Fremont — -Sportvision and more recently, SolarCity.

Sure. Sportvision develops products that enhance sports-viewing experiences across all forms of media. (You know, things like the Virtual Yellow 1st and Ten® Line!) The company relocated from Mountain View to one of our buildings in Ardenwood, which afforded Sportvision the ability to expand into a larger facility at a competitive price. But more important than offering a less-expensive Silicon Valley location, Fremont allows it to draw (and retain) talent from a much broader area, given the City’s central location.

At the other end of town, we own a 200,000 square foot complex that we just leased to SolarCity, which got some great attention. As one of the former Solyndra facilities, we knew that the building’s unique infrastructure was well-suited for high-intensity R&D or manufacturing — and a rare find in Silicon Valley! It’s gratifying to see this reversal of fortunes in the solar industry and to have the nation’s largest solar provider in our building.

3. Your campus in Ardenwood offers a tremendous opportunity to companies looking for high-quality office/R&D space a stone’s throw from the Peninsula. Can you describe its features?

Located right at the base of the Dumbarton Bridge (and about a 2-minute drive from the Menlo Park city limits), at the intersection of Ardenwood Blvd. and Kaiser Dr., Ardenwood Corporate Center totals approximately 307,657 square feet across four buildings. We acquired the complex in 2003, and today, there are about 152,000 square feet available for lease. We’ve recently invested in the buildings to position them for flexibility. With 20-foot ceilings, abundant parking, and power, they can accommodate office space, R&D, manufacturing, or a combination of all three.

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Category: Fremont

All Bets on Clean Energy in 2015



Deep Chakraborty
Co-founder and CEO at ENACT SYSTEMS INC (and former CEO of Fremont-based CentroSolar America)

Welcome to the second installation of our cleantech blog series, where we shine the spotlight on Deep Chakraborty, co-founder and CEO of enACT Systems. EnACT is a first-of-its-kind, software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that increases customer engagement …

Welcome to the second installation of our cleantech blog series, where we shine the spotlight on Deep Chakraborty, co-founder and CEO of enACT Systems. EnACT is a first-of-its-kind, software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that increases customer engagement and workflow automation for solar energy and energy efficiency sales.

Take a peek at Deep’s thoughts on what it takes to start a cleantech business as well as what he sees for the future of the industry. (Hint: It’s looking good).

City of Fremont: As the founder of a cleantech company, what factors do you find pivotal for success?

Deep Chakraborty: Availability of early- and mid-stage growth capital is undoubtedly a key driver for success. I’ve seen many startups with unique and successful business models that struggle for early-stage capital.

Fremont: Seems like a big challenge. Can you pinpoint any other challenges that cleantech companies have to overcome?

DC: Financing and transaction costs are big as well. Residential solar or energy efficiency transaction costs are as high as 30 percent of revenue—that’s more than three times higher than other categories!

But this is where enACT Systems can help. Cleantech companies can leverage our end-to-end SaaS platform to ultimately shorten the sales cycle and reduce some of these transaction costs.

Government support also used to represent a significant challenge for many cleantech segments, especially ones in solar and energy efficiency. Because these technologies are now providing excellent return for customers in high-energy cost markets like California and New York, we have reached a turning point in how we partner with government agencies.

Fremont: Speaking of markets, do you think that any other states will join California in the U.S. solar power rankings?

DC: Definitely. While California still accounts for 50 percent of all new solar installations, new markets continue to open up. New Mexico, Missouri, and Indiana all made the top-10 list of U.S. markets in Q2 2014 for the first time, marking a clear trend that consumers can now benefit from the lower costs of distributed power.

Fremont: Wow! Do you see any other developing trends in the cleantech industry?

DC: Energy storage and energy efficiency driven by high-growth segments such as LED lighting are clearly evolving. As consumers become increasingly sophisticated in how they view their energy use, they begin to ask the right questions that drive change in their overall energy footprint. One great example is the increased use of electric vehicles, like in Fremont.

Fremont: And what about the energy distribution market?

DC: I think the next decade will represent a shift away from centralized to distributed energy and resource markets. Our decades-old power structure is built around large, centralized plants that send power through one-way transmission and distribution lines to uninformed customers. Now, however, power generation is becoming more efficient and distributed, occurring anywhere and everywhere—on rooftops or via mini power plants co-located at a customer’s site.

Fremont: Very interesting. Anything else you’d like to share?

DC: In this increasingly decentralized world, customers and energy providers drive better solutions. We can see this in how we track energy usage, manage storage systems, and use software to interact with the grid and analyze data.

And as the power sector continues to move in this direction, new utility business models need to emerge as the power sector adapts to survive or die. In many ways, the telecom industry’s landscape saw the same shift when wireless solutions and distributed networks emerged.

So hold tight for a sea-change in one of the largest, most significant industries that is driving the global economy.

 

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Category: Clean Tech

Ohlone College: Building for a Sustainable Future



Patrice Birkedahl
Director of College Advancement & Public Information Officer, Ohlone College

Ohlone College is undergoing a major transformation at its main campus on Mission Boulevard in Fremont. Funding for the construction comes from the $349 million Measure G bond passed by voters in 2010. The investment is going toward the construction and e…

Ohlone College is undergoing a major transformation at its main campus on Mission Boulevard in Fremont. Funding for the construction comes from the $349 million Measure G bond passed by voters in 2010. The investment is going toward the construction and enhancement of new and existing facilities, including athletic facilities and a parking infrastructure. The goal of the project is to modernize and enrich Ohlone’s academic programs through a new Science Center, Art Building and a new Learning Commons, which will include the library, tutoring labs, and collaborative learning centers. All of the buildings will feature technology-enhanced classrooms, laboratories, and lecture halls.

At the center of the renovation is “The Academic Core Project.” The project includes construction of three new academic buildings totaling 180,000 square feet in the heart of the campus as well as improvements and updates to other buildings in the campus infrastructure. Construction for the academic core buildings is expected to be completed before the end of 2018, while other projects will extend past that date. A five-floor, 900-space parking structure is currently under construction on the south side of the campus and is slated to open in time for the 2015 fall semester. 

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Rendering of “The Academic Core Project” with the Art Building and Learning Commons in the background. Art supplied by Cannon Design.

In addition to the Academic Core Project, Ohlone has a long-term goal of achieving net-zero energy consumption. The campus already has a fully operational one megawatt solar farm and is using other innovative energy reducing strategies, including a “geothermal ground loop” system to heat and cool buildings.

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Rendering of the interior spaces in the Art Building. Art supplied by Cannon Design

Once completed, the renovated campus will be environmentally sustainable with contemporary state-of-the-art academic buildings, new athletic fields, updated furnishings, and LED lighting. The 525 faculty members and more than 15,000 students will soon experience a beautiful, modern academic environment with more opportunities for interactive learning. 

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Category: Fremont

SolarCity Chooses Fremont to House Its New Silevo R&D Center



Christina Briggs
Economic Development Manager

Anyone who regularly follows this blog knows we are all about celebrating the successes, diversity, and notable highlights of Fremont companies.  In case you missed it, SolarCity announced that it is leasing the former Solyndra facility to house its Silev…

Anyone who regularly follows this blog knows we are all about celebrating the successes, diversity, and notable highlights of Fremont companies.  In case you missed it, SolarCity announced that it is leasing the former Solyndra facility to house its Silevo R&D operation.  

To help welcome SolarCity to the neighborhood, we wanted to shine some light on a recent blog post of theirs that caught our eye, and is definitely worth celebrating! The post features outstanding SolarCity employee, Melissa McMorrow, who is not only spearheading their Fremont development project, but also dominating the Women’s International Boxing Federation in her spare time!  Check it out here.

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Category: Clean Tech

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About

Welcome to our blog – Takes from Silicon Valley East!  Our view is slightly different here on the east side of the bay – from the Mission Peak backdrop to the advanced manufacturing companies that dot our boulevards. As we become more urban and strive to interpret the business issues affecting our innovation economy, we want to share with you our observations, insights, photos, arguments, agreements, inspirations and CEO interviews – and here on our blog is exactly where we plan to do this.

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