University developments benefit students and community: Poly has eye on success

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified a company and its owner. Fred Abler owns the start-up company WorthMonkey.

The local business community and Cal Poly students will benefit from two new developments that have opened on campus, university officials say.

Cal Poly is announcing today the launch of the new Cal Poly Technology Park where five businesses already have signed on to lease office space.

And professors say students’ business ideas will have a better chance of succeeding in the marketplace with the advent of Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The center — which doesn’t have a physical location yet — consists of programs aimed to encourage research, business development and innovation among students, companies and community members.

The Tech Park

The new Tech Park, as it is commonly known, is located on the campus on Mount Bishop Road near Highland Drive. It features 20,000 square feet of office space.

Of that, 8,000 square feet remains open for lease, said Jim Dunning, a project administrator with the university’s research and grant programs. The lease is comparable to what office space would go for in town.

Business owners will benefit from conferences to be held at the Tech Park on topics such as patents and stock options.

And the companies and students could gain from internships and possible job opportunities.

“I think it’s really important for start-ups to have a kind of support system around them to help grow,” said Fred Abler, who’s leasing Tech Park space for his start-up company WorthMonkey, a blue book for used electronics, vehicles and more. “Here, we’ll be surrounded by other companies and have the resources to share information.”

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

As part of Cal Poly’s learn-by-doing motto, several university students have developed business ideas they hope will turn into successful companies.

Examples include Alan Tepe’s SpidrPak expandable wine packaging product made from paper, Eli Weisgerber’s Chinese tea importation business, and Andrew Ouellet’s innovative bicycle braking system.

The idea behind the center is to engage students, business leaders and community with speaking events on campus, nurture student ideas through internships, and encourage involvement in innovation competitions.

Louis Tornatzky and Jonathan York, industrial technology professors, helped create the center and will administer it.

They hope some may want to invest in student-run start-ups, which could eventually help build new companies and create more jobs in San Luis Obispo County.

“We have a great number of really bright students every year,” said York. “By nurturing them and keeping them here, we could help grow jobs in this area and support families by creating more head-of-household incomes.”