By Jane Gottlieb
On a cold January day, backhoes pulled endless loads of dirt from the site being carved out of the Rensselaer Technology Park. Concrete pylons sketched out the beginnings of a 33-acre project, the Albany skyline in the background. GE Healthcare is the new tenant on an aggressive schedule to complete its $165 million 150,000-square-foot facility that will produce digital X-ray devices that will significantly improve breast cancer detection.
“At some point soon, GE is going to meet Rensselaerphysically,” says Karl Lampson, manager of financial and business operations at the Tech Park, one of the first research parks in the nation owned by a university. “We’re going to build a road to tie them together.”
After more than 25 years in business, the Rensselaer Technology Park continues to attract major tenants and launch innovative companies ready for the global economy.
In the coming months, the Tech Park has to extend the infrastructure, including an access road and bridges that pass over protected wetlands. The entire process, from permits to construction, might have taken considerably longer were the tenant not on such an ambitious timetable to potentially save lives.
“Every month we don’t put a system out there is a month that hospitals don’t have the technology available for women, and cancers could be missed,” says Thomas Feist, manager of the thin films lab at GE Global Research, which developed the X-ray technology. “RPI had the best combination of a high-tech presence and infrastructure availability,” Feist says. “But if they’d said we’d need to wait a year to sign a lease, we would have vetoed it. They didn’t. They said they’d do whatever it takes.”
General Electric’s debut into the Tech Park brings together two Capital Region powerhouses that have collaborated for more than a century. Tech Park Director Michael Wacholder said the proximity of university to corporation is the exact scenario Rensselaer planners envisioned 30 years ago when they began to conceive the idea of the park.
“This is the first time in many years GE has decided on a major facility in the region and it’s being built right here,” says Wacholder. “I think it signals two things: the value of relationships between a great corporation and a great research institution and, also, the way the region has redefined its economy and turned its focus to technology.”