County joins regional technology alliance group |

County joins regional technology alliance group

ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Nevada County has become the latest county to join a new regional technology group – a move that could help high-tech start-up firms get funding and/or expand.

Now that Nevada County is in the Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance, three companies in Nevada County are inquiring about funding, said Lewis Attardo, the alliance’s chief operating officer.

Attardo spoke Tuesday at an Economic Resource Council breakfast to honor National Semiconductor, a Santa Clara company that has a design lab in the Whispering Pines Business Park.

National representatives were at the breakfast, held at the Holbrooke Hotel, to receive the ERC’s Quarterly Community Appreciation Award.

Engineers at National’s Grass Valley design lab have worked on consumer products such as cellular phones with color displays, said John Parry, design engineering manager for National’s Grass Valley design lab.

From its first four engineers in 1995, the design lab has grown to employ 39 people, said Parry.

National is part of the county’s technology sector – a segment of the economy that got a boost when Nevada County joined the Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance in September.

Originally, it wasn’t included in the Sacramento region, formed in May, because the state drew the line at El Dorado County, said Attardo.

Larry Burkhardt, ERC’s president and chief executive officer, lobbied the group to include Nevada County.

While offering few potential home runs for venture capitalists, Nevada County has plenty of what Attardo dubs “lifestyle” companies – great companies that provide good income for 10 to 50 employees.

These companies are an important part of Nevada County’s economy; but they rarely make the venture capitalists’ radar or get multi-million-dollar capital infusions, because they do not go public or grow to become major enterprises. Instead, they have to seek capital from angel investors or family members.

The technology alliance could offer another funding source, noted Dan Castles, the ERC’s chairman.

Castles said there are plenty of companies in Nevada County that fall into the “lifestyle” company category.

While they’re not going to be blockbuster companies, receiving hundred million dollar awards of venture capital, they often could use smaller amounts – $200,000 or so.

Local firms could tap into the technology alliance’s contacts, linking with federal funds for innovation and loan sources. The alliance is one of the six Regional Technology Alliances in the state to give grants of up to $250,000 to support research and development that leads to commercial products and services.

The technology group could also provide experts to complement local networks of entrepreneurs and provide information sources for start-up companies.

Attardo encouraged area companies to work with local agencies like the ERC.

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