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Nevada County Economic Resource Council announces new name, narrowed focus for proposed tech hub

A Nevada County Economic Resource Council initiative designed to make the county an innovative technology hub has a new name — and a firmly defined niche within the digital media space, ERC officials announced Wednesday.

The Green Screen Institute, formerly known as the Sierra Digital Media Campus, will center its operations around companies in the virtual reality and augmented reality markets.

The institute will be home to a three-month accelerator program designed to provide technical, educational and financial support to virtual reality and augmented reality start-ups; it will also provide co-working space for more established corporations.

The institute will be led by an advisory board made up of tech and media executives, including Scott Lenet, the president of venture capital firm Touchdown Ventures; Dan Castles, the chief executive officer of Telestream; and Melinda Booth, the executive director of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival.

“What we’re putting in place are the tools, people and resources to make it as absolutely easy as possible for a high-potential start-up to get off the ground or go from point A to point B in the trajectory of their company.”Jon Gregoryexecutive director of the ERC

"We are hugely excited to be pursuing and focusing on the virtual reality and the augmented reality sectors because it's such an explosive, hot market sector," said Jon Gregory, the executive director of the ERC.

He said the decision to build the institute around that particular facet of digital media was the result of a months-long collaboration between the ERC and Touchdown Ventures, and was based partly on an examination of "the assets and attributes" of the county, including its foothold in the video broadcast technology sector and its arts and culture scene.

Gregory said Touchdown Ventures also spent time analyzing trends in the technology industry before recommending the institute focus on the virtual reality and augmented reality sectors.

A major component of the institute, which the ERC previously announced would be located on New Mohawk Road in Nevada City, will be its accelerator program for start-ups, which is slated to kick off this summer, Gregory said. The program will provide equipment and production facilities, a curriculum that will culminate in an opportunity to demonstrate products for investors and legal and accounting services, among other resources, according to ERC officials. Housing will also be provided for up to three people from each participating start-up.

The accelerator program is designed to be hands-on and immersive, Gregory said.

"What we're putting in place are the tools, people and resources to make it as absolutely easy as possible for a high-potential start-up to get off the ground or go from point A to point B in the trajectory of their company," he said.

The Green Screen Institute will begin accepting applications for the accelerator program on April 29.

Gregory expects to draw local, regional, national and global applicants. The goal of the program is not just to help launch businesses that may choose to locate operations in Nevada County, but to also establish the area worldwide as a force in digital media, Gregory said.

"It has implications for moving talent here, getting more visitors here," Gregory said of the program. "As we gain a reputation in the region for the hatching of high-potential start-ups, it's going to have much broader implications for the economy."

Those in the accelerator program will share space with more established companies that will take up residency at the institute. The ERC previously announced that Grass Valley-based Gyro-Stabilized Systems will be a tenant; Gregory said the ERC expects to bring two or three additional companies into the building.

The ERC will also relocate its operations from its current location on Crown Point Court in Grass Valley to the Green Screen Institute, a move Gregory anticipates will be completed by April 30.

He said the next task for Green Screen Institute is to secure funding that will provide long-term stability.

Gregory said the ERC will announce an additional round of advisory board members at the organization's annual Economic Development Summit, which will take place from 1-5:30 p.m. on April 7 at Grass Valley's Veterans Memorial Auditorium.

Also at that event, Lenet, the keynote speaker, is expected to detail the process undertaken by Touchdown Ventures to arrive at its recommendation that the institute be focused around the virtual reality and augmented reality sectors.

Tickets for the ERC's Economic Development Summit range from $10-45, and can be purchased at theunion.com/erc.

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email elavin@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.