The 2017 Coachella Valley Economic Partnership’s (CVEP) Annual Meeting set the stage for three bold initiatives: promoting the build-out of business-class broadband service, nurturing a research university to train workers in STEM (science, technology, math and engineering) skills to participate in the growing knowledge economy and the need to create a local source of venture capital.
“(Broadband) bandwidth in the future, as far as business is concerned, is going to be just as important as water, sewers, roads, and electricity. We have to partner with our stakeholders and start advocating for that,” said Joe Wallace, CVEP’s CEO & Chief Innovation Officer. “There is a county-wide effort that’s in its early stages now. It’s called RivCoConnect. We have established a working relationship with them along with many other interested entities. This will be an expensive project, but what we’re trying to do is find a way to get private investors to come in and take advantage of what’s going on out here.”
On the subject of education and workforce development, Wallace noted that high wealth generating regions have one thing in common: “A research university that has technical degrees like engineering, computer science, finance. Silicon Valley has Stanford and Berkeley, and they were there first. Silicon Valley happened because of the universities. It wasn’t the other way around.”
Wallace also underscored the need to find local sources of venture capital noting, “Most of the equity investments that are coming into local technology businesses aren’t coming from here. We need to have a venture capital firm that’s dedicated to a business model of investing in the Coachella Valley.”
CVEP announced it is just starting a program to bring Federal Laboratory Consortium opportunities to the valley. “SBIR is Small Business Innovation Research. STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) is a similar thing that has a university component attached to it, but these are dollars that are available in the federal government, where they say, ‘This is what we’d like to see somebody work on.’ And it’s R&D-level stuff. So I’m hoping to see some of our local companies get into the government-funded research projects,” said Wallace.
CVEP will host a seminar on how local businesses can take advantage of the SBIR/STTR programs on June 29 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at CVEP’s headquarters at 3111 East Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs.
CVEP’s iHub completed its fifth year with performance metrics that exceeded the goals set forth in 2011, with 56 startups compared to a goal of 50. Palm Springs iHub firms met their goal of creating 20 patents. The equity investment goal of $7 million was exceeded by nearly 200% to $20 million. Wallace also noted that iHub firms have received a number of distinguished awards from organizations like SBEMP and Spirit of Entrepreneurship Awards from CSU San Bernardino.