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The future -- now
When Dr. Rod King says things like, "The future is now," that's the entrepreneur in him speaking — the innovation architect at work (it's on his business card).
He's not talking about Fresno specifically. Only, he is, kind of.
"A good entrepreneur is always looking to the future," says King, CEO of Galaxy IT, the visual search and information organization (rethinking the way we use search engines) he runs from an office at the Central Valley Business Incubator's Launching Pad.
The Incubator makes for good entrepreneurs.
Since 1996, the independent non-profit has worked with 3,000 of them — for the number guys, that's $12.7 million in capital and 1,900 new jobs to the area — offering business-building training and help with development and implementation of growth strategies.
It also offers logistical resources most start-ups find through years of trial and error. The Incubator put King in contact with the venture capitalist who got his company off the ground — the software will begin alpha testing in a few months.
For the five on-site members, there are other benefits, what Kings call "accidental positive effects."
"It's not even intentional," King says.
But the Incubator's focus is, says CVBI CEO Craig Scharton.
A city can grow its economy in a lot of ways. It can spend money, try to lure in the big companies — that's another Gap distribution center. Or it can spend that same money to support its own, building local businesses from the ground up and creating a setup for ... wait for it ...
The future (cue inspirational theme music).
The Claude Laval Water and Energy Technology Incubator, for example, works with clean air and water conservation technologies businesses. These are problems the Valley is facing now, Scharton says. It makes sense the solutions should come from the area.
These are innovative companies who will need a workforce (those knowledge workers we keep hearing so much about). Galaxy IT is on the lookout for a programmer who is adept at using Flash, King says. That's a tough find in Fresno, he says.
Michael Wanke was hired as Band of Neighbors chief technology officer. The company is working on a neighborhood-watch alert system for neighborhoods.
"We're not opening up a hair salon," says Band of Neighbors CEO Robert Hayden.
The best-case, dream-world scenario: These businesses, all of them, become a major corporate presence with headquarters in town. That's where the real economic payoff comes in, Scharton says.
The second best-case, dream-world scenario is much simpler (and FYI, it's already happened): A computer science student graduating from Fresno State won't have to move to find a good, well-paying job.
They might want to, Scharton says. Hell, it might even be good for them.
"But at least you have that option."