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The neighborhood also was a draw for WMHT, which was moving from an industrial park in Rotterdam. Like all public broadcasters, the station struggles against competition from cable networks. It is eager to capture a younger audience, including the demographics represented by the Rensselaer community.

“If we’re going to be around in five or 10 or 20 years, we need to be not just pleasing people but making a difference in the community we’re engaged in,” says WMHT’s Altman. “You can call it economic development, call it whatever you want, but building a sense of community is crucial. We’d like to see our relationships with RPI itself grow and share the wider world of things that are going on.”

Pitney Bowes MapInfo’s Hickey says the setting, near other providers of technology and education—“birds of a feather” he calls them—is important to the message and morale of the company.

Connections With Campus

On the southern edge of the Tech Park is the blue-frame home called ARCH House, which Rensselaer architecture students designed and built as a project that examined affordable, prefabricated housing.

In the center of the Tech Park, thousands of visitors to the Children’s Museum take in the Molecularium, the globally distributed animated show developed and patented by Rensselaer researchers that tells the story of life in a planetarium format.

“Rensselaer’s Lighting Research Center has done a number of projects out here. LRC students are going to analyze how to use LED street lighting, on the new (GE) road,” says Wacholder.

Over the years, scores of Rensselaer students have interned and have been mentored in offices at the Tech Park. A notable segment of MapInfo’s workforce came straight from the Troy campus. That’s in addition to the concepts born in Rensselaer classrooms that moved to the commercial marketplace via the Tech Park, such as Pitney Bowes MapInfo and BullEx, the patented fire extinguisher training system used worldwide that originated in Rensselaer’s Inventor’s Studio course and continues to maintain its headquarters in the Tech Park.

With biomedicine, supercomputing, digital broadcast, and the myriad ventures they spawn now unfolding in North Greenbush, there are even more plans to join the park with the campus.

“People like me absolutely have to take this as a responsibility. There’s nothing that stops any of us from taking the initiative,” says David Gautschi, dean of the Lally School of Management & Technology. “Michael Wacholder has done a terrific job. Now we have to take a more deliberate look at insinuating ourselves into the activities at the Tech Park. Let’s face it; we have to be able to promote our value to them. When businesses go through a large evolution they aren’t necessarily thinking about how they can make connections to us.”

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Rensselaer’s new supercomputing facility, CCNI

With the supercomputer, capable of processing 70 trillion calculations every second, the center’s partners hope for nothing less than a major jolt for the local economy and a global reach that will draw a new wave of Tech Park tenants.

The challenge is heightened somewhat by the six miles between the Institute and Tech Park. Business-university ventures more typically share the same terrain. One such model is Sophia Antipolis, a technology park in the south of France where tech-university students work directly in government labs. More typical in the U.S. is Stanford Research Park, the nation’s first, which developed as Stanford University made its adjoining land available to businesses. The results were university and industry enterprises now largely indistinguishable from one another.

Wacholder says Rensselaer’s Tech Park was located in North Greenbush because land was not available next to the urban campus. “In the best of all possible worlds you’d have the next 80 acres to build from,” he says. “But in some respects it’s a blessing, too. We’re right in the center of the Capital Region, across the river from downtown Albany and the legislative chambers. We have the ability to preserve the environment in the center of the region.”

Also in the works, Gautschi says, are efforts to build stronger ties between the Tech Park and the Rensselaer Incubator and Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship. Already in place is a “dark fiber connection” between WMHT and EMPAC, which will allow live simulcasts between the two locations. Rensselaer’s supercomputer also provides a high-tech connection. A degree program in finance is being planned, Gautschi says, that may involve a major financial information company that works at the CCNI.

The Lally dean’s office is also working to place students into internships and co-ops in the Tech Park, some at the master’s level.

“I said to Mike [Wacholder], please take me and introduce me to all the businesses that are coming in,” Gautschi says. “He said he would not only take me to the companies, but also bring the companies to the campus.”

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.