Vancouver Island Technology Park prepares for tenants

Technology companies, especially young technology companies, don’t make for the best tenants.

They’re not particularly loud or messy, says Sandy Beaman, general manager of Victoria’s new Vancouver Island Technology Park(VITP). But they do

have a problem with commitment.

“”Tech companies are very volatile; they’re either growing or going broke,”” Beaman says. “”Just trying to hit the pre-leasing requirements is very difficult.””

This is why government organizations typically own the hundreds of similar office parks across North America, Beaman says. Tech companies might not be attractive to retail leasing companies, but he says governments recognize that the value they bring to the community – they attract top minds and provide jobs for students – exceeds the value of rent. “”Those benefits accrue to the community at large,”” he says.

The VITP, which opened in August and expects to have its first tenant up and running within three weeks, is owned by the British Columbia Buildings Corp., a crown corporation property manager. The former hospital facility, 15 minutes from downtown Victoria, is designed to accommodate companies in the pre-commercialization stage – those doing research and development and equipped with venture capital funding – though it will also be open to more established firms.

“”Our focus is to assist young tech companies to grow in this area,”” Beaman says, adding the city’s office and industrial space has largely been taken up by government and large businesses.

Earlier this week, the VITP and Mississauga, Ont.-based NexInnovations announced an agreement that will see NexInnovations providing VITP tennants with connectivity – including data networking and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) capability – from the VITP’s business centre. NexInnovations B.C. region sales manager Don Burkett says the young companies coming into the Park will be focused on their R&D and will not have the time or money to devote to infrastructure. Erwin Kantwerg, NexInnovations western region vice-president, adds the solution, developed with Cisco Systems Inc. and VITP partner GT Group Telecom Inc., was created with the understanding that the VITP would be housing short-term tenants.

“”Both the building and the technology of the structure are designed for their type of tenant,”” Kantwerg says. “”With this infrastructure, all these companies would have plug-and-play capability for their phones and their computers.””

Beaman says the VITP planned to have additional capacity on the VoIP system so it can accommodate the phone systems of incoming tenants, who can choose how much of the Park’s solution they want to use.

The VITP’s first tenant – other than the Park’s own administration staff, which moved in last November – will be Jasco Research, a privately held software and hardware developer that grew out of the University of Victoria, another VITP partner. VITP partners, which also include BC Hydro and Royal Roads University, provide park tenants access to resources they wouldn’t necessarily get on their own. Beaman says a private-sector developer would not have the time or resources to facilitate the interaction between government, universities and the business community.

Three other companies, among them Epic Biosonics Inc., a neurotechnology company developing a fully implantable cochlear implant, are in the process of moving into the VITP, Beaman says.

The 35-acre VITP facility, which charges market rents in its bid to be a self-sufficient facility, houses offices, fitness facilities and a business centre that includes a multipurpose wired conference room and a video-conferencing board room.

“”A tenant comes in here, that’s a facility they don’t need in their own space,”” Beaman says. “”We’re going to become a self-contained village of tech people.””

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