Mitch Glaeser and Rich Blaser aren’t millennials, but they have the enthusiasm of ones these days.
Glaeser, the CEO of the Emory Group Companies, and Blaser, the CEO and co-founder of Infinite Energy, are excited about San Felasco Tech City – a visionary live-work community that they’re planning in Alachua.
Glaeser is tapping his experience as a longtime Greater Gainesville business leader and the insight he’s gained by listening to millennials as the host of the “Startup Talks” podcasts.
Blaser, also a lifelong resident of Gainesville, has mentored some of the best startups Gainesville has seen.
“Tech City is about keeping talent here locally and providing jobs at every skillset in a live-work sustainable environment,” Blaser said.
Tech City is following in the footsteps of high-tech companies that have found fertile ground in and around the Progress Corporate Park in Alachua – a city bounded by nature that maintains a small-town lifestyle.
One such company is InterMed Group, which had been located in the Progress Corporate Park but recently moved to a 50,000-square-foot building near Tech City. CEO Rick Stabb encouraged Glaeser and Blaser to become his neighbor.
“Our workers mostly are millennials, and they love working in Alachua,” Stabb said. “They’re minimalists, and they want to be in a healthy environment. Traffic here is nothing, and parking at our building is easy.”
Affordability is key to the Tech City concept.
“Our lease rates will be about half the cost of other options for new space in the Innovation District,” Glaeser said.
Tech City can keep its costs in hand in several ways. First, its initial 82 acres east of U.S. 441 and south of the Progress Corporate Park were relatively inexpensive.
Second, its building costs will be low. All the mechanical, electric and plumbing are run in a 12-foot section along the outside walls, which avoids the premium of running water throughout the interior. Much of the space is a modern, open concept called urban warehouse, which also saves money.
The buildings are one story, making them considerably more affordable than multiple-story buildings.
Without the low rent and other attractions of Tech City, Greater Gainesville could have lost Fracture, a one-time startup that has grown to 65 employees.
The company, which has developed a nationwide niche in printing photographs on glass, has outgrown its space near Innovation Square, noted co-founder and CEO Abhi Lokesh.
“We’re bursting at the seams,” he said. “It’s a good problem to have, and I’m grateful for it, but there comes a time when it limits your ceiling.”
Fracture will occupy one of the two 30,000-square-foot commercial buildings on the campus.
“With this move, we won’t have to think twice about doubling if we need to,” Lokesh said.
Emphasis on Environment, Health
On his podcasts, Glaeser consistently hears that millennials strongly value protecting the environment and being healthy.
Tech City meets these needs.
Solar panels over pedestrian areas, solar roofs and even “solar trees” are expected to generate more than one megawatt of power, which should cover most of Tech City’s power needs.
The project is still evolving its residential component. Smaller and more sustainable homes are among the concepts that the founders and tenants are exploring.
Tech City is across the street from the San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, a 7,200-acre mecca for hiking and biking with over 30 miles of trails, and it will have a pedestrian overpass to the park.
Down the road in Alachua is the new Legacy Park, featuring an expansive recreation center. The city received a $6.75 million state grant for a road that will connect Progress Corporate Park with County Road 241 and is considered a game-changer for the region.
The new road will be an important link between the Alachua and Jonesville-Newberry area, and it will cut through 280 acres that the UF Foundation owns adjacent to Progress Corporate Park.
Construction of the initial part of Tech City is scheduled to begin in October, and by using fast-build methods, the work is to be completed by the end of April.
Glaeser credits the City of Alachua with helping the progress.
“The city has been phenomenal to work with to achieve the kind of performance that we need to keep these rapidly growing companies here,” he said.
Keep Talent Here
Glaeser is excited about this venture because it provides an opportunity for young people to stay in Greater Gainesville – an opportunity that didn’t exist when his brother, Christopher, graduated
from UF in 1977 with a degree in computer and information sciences.
“After graduation, he had ideas that he wanted to bring to market, specifically measuring the efficiency of compiler technology — teaching computers how to process information faster and faster,” Glaeser said.
“Unfortunately for our family, my brother had to move away to a community that welcomed his entrepreneurial spirit – the Silicon Valley.”
Christopher Glaeser prospered in California, but Greater Gainesville lost out on his success.
Things have changed for the better, and Tech City is another step in stopping the local brain drain.
“What I get excited about is keeping our families together,” Glaeser said. “There’s no reason our youth can’t go to college, earn a world-class education and then stay in this community and produce life-changing companies.”
Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper is pleased that Tech City has chosen Alachua for its home.
“It means a lot to us,” he said. “It’s something a little different than we have now.”
The state-funded connecting road in Alachua and other improvements the city is making will help attract new high-quality businesses, Coerper said.
“We have big carrots to attract companies,” he said.
Rick Staab of InterMed praised the Tech City founders for providing opportunities.
“As we grew at InterMed, we looked all over for space, including Charlotte, North Carolina,” he said. “We were fortunate to find a large building that was vacant because its previous owner, Sabine – an audio equipment manufacturer – had left Alachua after a Salt Lake City company acquired it.”
In considering a move out of state, Staab came to appreciate what Greater Gainesville offers, including:
- Sid Martin Biotech | UF Innovate in Alachua, which has twice been ranked as the top biotech incubator in the world
- UF, which is ranked No. 8 among public institutions
- Santa Fe College, which is ranked No. 1 among community colleges
“The infrastructure and talent are better than anywhere else,” Staab said. “People don’t get that in their head when they’re here.”