|MapInfo struggled through seven tough years by making workforce reductions, discontinuing projects that would produce no immediate results, and cutting back costs. The company survived in part by taking steps that would reflect a permanent change, rather than behaving as if the world would once again right itself.
The park did not lose any large tenants during that period. But Wacholder says that he “worked with” a few, which can involve making difficult judgment calls.
Challenges to the park also include remaining financially self-sustaining without straying from its mission of providing a mix of high technology, cultural, and educational tenants. Wacholder says the standards have been loosened at times, but never enough to skew the character.
A Walk in the Park
As GE Healthcare broke ground, global demand for digital mammography was growing at a startling 25 percent or more a year. GE was the first with digital mammography; it had taken nearly 20 years to develop at its Global Research headquarters in Niskayuna. The machine improved greatly on film, enabling physicians to pinpoint breast cancer far earlier and save thousands of lives every year. Now, competitors were catching up and it was impossible to keep up without a facility in which to produce them.
The optimal solution would be to find a site within 15 miles of Niskayuna so that the engineers and researchers could accelerate the technology to its next level. About a dozen candidates emerged, some in farm fields without the proper infrastructure or zoning in place; others in brownfields, where a protracted permitting process was practically a guarantee. A few urban spots also were considered, says GE’s Feist. But these would have limited expansion opportunities or force a facility to be spread across different sites.
The Tech Park became a leading candidate because the landlord would be responsible for many of the logisticsdealing with wetlands, whose presence was of concern to the Army Corps of Engineers, permits from the Town of North Greenbush and the state, and the grueling timetable GE had set for itself.
Feist was impressed by the Tech Park’s working relationship with the town and a concern with detail one would associate with Rensselaer. “The RPI team put in long hours working through the potential environmental concerns,” he says. “They addressed these things more deeply than any other owner we have leased from.”
Wacholder and his staff of four provide what businesses, including those run by newly minted Rensselaer graduates, have called a “security blanket,” stepping in to help line up a phone carrier or suggest where to buy furniture.
Another plus was Rensselaer’s longstanding relationship with GE, where so many alumni work, including Mark Little, now a Global Research senior vice president, who earned his Ph.D. from Rensselaer in 1982. Proximity to Pitney Bowes MapInfo, CCNI, and the Troy campus added to the appeal. GE also wanted a home that was more high-tech than industrial and near attractive buildings and nature, not warehouses and traffic.