Biz Buzz: A new chapter begins

Local software company CygNet is on the verge of becoming the anchor tenant of a redeveloped historic Railroad Square building in San Luis Obispo.

The three-story brick structure at 1880 Santa Barbara St., built in the early 20th century, was an industrial warehouse and an example of San Luis Obispo’s early commercial architecture.

By the 1970s, it was condemned by the city, according to San Luis Obispo businessman Cliff Branch.

Branch, John King and Jim Smith saved the building by buying it for $78,000 and revamping it into offices, a recording studio and a warehouse, with more than 100 employees under its roof.

After a fire in 2002 — with the building facing demolition — Hamish Marshall stepped in to renovate it in 2007.

CygNet President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Smith told The Tribune the soon to be finished space, designed by George Garcia, is “spectacular, in terms of charm and ambiance.” While nothing has been signed officially, he hoped the company and Marshall have had “a meeting of minds,” he said.

The company, founded by Jeff Brady in 1993, has more than 40 local employees (out of a total of 70 in locations close to oil and gas production fields in the U.S. and Canada) and has outgrown its current space at 994 Mill St. in San Luis Obispo, Brady said.

Plans are to occupy about two-thirds of the building, as well as one floor of a new adjacent tower, and take on more space as the company grows.

“We’re packed in like sardines right now,” he said. “We’d like it (Railroad Square) to be a campus where we can continue to build our culture … and raise our presence in the community.”

CygNet is a privately held firm that develops software for more than 50 percent of independent companies in the natural gas and oil industry, Smith said.

Brady says he chose San Luis Obispo as his company’s headquarters because “I wanted to live here.” He also likes being near Cal Poly and has been hiring 15 to 20 interns from there each summer, he said.

Brady and Smith hope to move into the building as early as the summer.

Marshall and Garcia, the lead architect, could not be reached for comment. But Garcia has told The Tribune in previous stories about the building that the project was “very near and dear” to him.

Garcia started his architectural design firm at the location — his phone number ends in “1880” to mark the spot — and was one of the tenants forced to move out after the fire. To Garcia, the building is one of the biggest, stand-out architectural landmarks of San Luis Obispo, he said.

— Melanie Cleveland

A.G. hospital wins joint surgery award

Arroyo Grande Community Hospital was recently awarded a five-star rating for its joint replacement program for the seventh year by Health Grades, an independent health care ratings organization.

The hospital’s rating is based on a recent study by Health Grades that evaluated patient outcomes in the nation’s 5,000 hospitals.

Arroyo Grande Community Hospital was recognized by Health Grades for its quality orthopedic care.

— AnnMarie Cornejo