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Calstart//dt1st/mark2nd By DANIEL TAUB Staff Reporter Earlier this year, CalStart had a big problem. The non-profit organization that nurtures start-up companies involved in alternative-fuel transportation was losing its lease at the former aircraft manufacturing plant in Burbank, as the property’s owner, Lockheed Martin Corp., prepared to redevelop and sell the land. Because CalStart officials weren’t sure where they would go particularly given the tightening real estate market they had to stop adding start-up companies to their technology incubator. The organization went from having 26 companies at the beginning of the year to just eight at the end of August. But CalStart has begun a turnaround. The group has found a new home, albeit a much smaller and more expensive one than its former Burbank facility. The consortium is leasing the former Stuart Co. pharmaceutical plant in Pasadena from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which bought the property for a terminal for the subway’s Blue Line a line that has been postponed because of the MTA’s financial problems. Also, last month, it opened a 25,000-square-foot incubator in Camarillo at the new Cal State Channel Islands campus. It is the third CalStart incubator, following the early 1996 opening of one in Alameda. “The world is not centralized anymore,” said Bill Van Amburg, CalStart’s vice president of communications and marketing. “You don’t have to be in one building anymore. It’s better to be closer to where your market is.” CalStart, which was formed in 1992 and includes such partners as Hughes Electronics Corp. and Southern California Gas Co., consults companies and institutions looking to make greater use of alternative fuels, including Los Angeles International Airport and Cal State Channel Islands. It is probably best known for its “Project Hatchery” incubators made up of developing companies that can lease office space for $1.25 a square foot and shop space for $1 a square foot. They then get access to a shared machine shop, conference rooms and, perhaps most importantly, each other. The close proximity allows them to bounce ideas off like-minded entrepreneurs. In Pasadena, United Micromachines, a 2-year-old company started by Caltech graduate Thomas R. Tsao that makes sensors to detect the speed of airflow on a vehicle part, is directly across the hall from Integrated Micromachines, which makes highly sensitive pressure sensors. Tsao said he occasionally discusses ideas with Integrated Micromachines workers but, because what they do is so similar to what he does, he considers them competitors. The more important benefit for him, Tsao said, is being in a professional facility with conference rooms and offices rather than, say, his apartment. “Every single visitor I have brought here has been immediately impressed,” Tsao said. The incubator in Pasadena now has 12 companies. Three of them moved from Burbank, and the rest have come to the incubator in the last three months. The Camarillo facility has signed up three companies already, and the Alameda facility has 18 companies. Ten of its companies, including electric sports-car maker Zebra Motors, have recently “graduated” meaning they’ve started making enough money to move out. “We’re really looking to expand those numbers,” said Alan Lerchbacker, CalStart’s vice president of operations, adding that CalStart wants to have 60 companies in its three incubators by the end of 1999. “We’re looking at new ways to market ourselves.”

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