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SciTAC Helps Foster High-Tech Businesses in Region

By Kendra Knutson
APRIL 16, 2007--Nestled on the edge of River Falls, Wis., in the Whitetail Ridge Corporate Park is a relatively new enterprise that hopes to greatly enhance the economies of the St. Croix Valley and surrounding areas.

The Science and Technology Accelerator Corporation (SciTAC) is a private, non-profit corporation responsible for attracting high quality, proven science and technology-based growth companies.

Formed in the spring of 2004 by St. Croix Valley River Falls businesses, government, and higher education leaders, SciTAC acts as a business incubator providing management guidance, technical assistance, and consulting tailored to young, growing technology companies.

The corporation offers perfect opportunities for development stage companies to launch and introduce their products and services to the marketplace while helping them to grow in SciTAC's accelerator facility, according to SciTAC President Jim Letourneau, who is also president of Foley-United Inc. in River Falls.

"It's been very successful; we're quite happy with our progress," said LeTourneau.

When partnered with SciTAC, companies' opportunities for success are greatly increased as they have access to building sites, office space, industrial parks, capital funds, a network of business resources, and access to research and educational facilities such as the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF), Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC), and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC).  

Companies benefit from being able to use the shared services, equipment, lab space and business assistance that is given to technology companies that have advanced beyond the start-up phase, says Letourneau.

SciTAC looks for companies that already have a marketable product or service, have some existing financial resources, have a business and marketing plan in place, and possess the capacity to employ a highly skilled, professional and technical workforce.  

Typically, types of businesses that SciTAC would serve, says Letourneau, include: bio-agriculture, biotechnology, medical, pharmaceutical, healthcare, scientific instrumentation, information technology, software, telecommunications, electronic and microelectronics, environmental technologies, materials technologies, automation and precision fabrication, advanced machining and manufacturing applications, and advanced research and development.

SciTAC's yearly budget is $70,000 most of which is raised through grants, says Letourneau. About $20,000-25,000 is derived from utilities, private individuals and rent.   The cost to a prospective company is the agreed upon first and last month rent in addition to their ability to fund their own telephone and Internet service provider.

In 2006 SciTAC was awarded a $22,000 grant. The corporation's accelerator facility in Whitetail Ridge Corporate Park in River Falls plans to use this money to provide technical assistance and attract tenants from the Minneapolis-St. Paul market. This is the third economic development grant that SciTAC has received.   Another grant proposal submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Commerce for $30,000 is pending.   

SciTAC's goals for the year include finding more available space in River Falls for incubators, establishing an incubator in Osceola, and recruiting more companies.

Currently there are three companies in the River Falls incubator facility; however, the building has a total of six cubicles available in single or multiple combinations to any eligible business.

SciTAC's current board of directors consists of several local community members: Letourneau; Jeff Redmon, Redmon Law and SciTAC vice president; Bill Rubin, St. Croix County Economic Development Corp. and SciTAC secretary; and George Hauser, Citizens Bank, River Falls and SciTAC treasurer. Board members include: Bernie Van Osdale, city of River Falls; Joel Larsen, First National Bank, River Falls; Don Betz, UWRF; Bill Campbell, UWRF; Dan Marchand, UWRF; Brad Mogen, UWRF; and Linda Clark, Excel Energy, Eau Claire.  

The St. Croix Valley, including River Falls, New Richmond and Hudson, already have several growing science and technology companies, says Letourneau. These include: BioDiagnostics, Inc., E-Science, Inc., ImmunoStar, Inc., Paradigm Diagnostics, Inc., Calyso Control Systems, GaMar Composites, Inc., Interfacial Solutions, and Sajan, Inc.  

BioDiagnostics, a River Falls company, is a leader in genetic standard and purity seed testing. It provides 10 percent of its available workspace to the local science and technology incubator and offers more than two dozen jobs to students at UWRF each year.  

With the addition of more businesses, SciTAC anticipates a very positive effect on the community, universities and colleges, and the surrounding areas. "The potential for the impact on UWRF is large in the form of internships and use of graduates," said Letourneau.

Another SciTAC impact is that companies can hire students and interns once they become well established, therefore, creating more high technology jobs that require higher education and increased pay.

Letourneau says the positive effect of the SciTAC incubator will benefit the region as a whole. "The hope is that it will raise per capita in the area."

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Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:08:13 Central Daylight Time

 

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