Where Will You Work?

If you’re looking for a high-tech career, chances are you’ll find it in one of the Madison area’s technology campuses, business parks specially designed to meet the needs of emerging and high-growth tech companies—and their workers

For employees at Platypus Technologies, Imago Scientific Instruments or other tenants of the Fitchburg Technology Campus, it’s just a short walk to have coffee at Ancora or lunch at Kelly’s Grille, to work out at Fitness Together, or to make a deposit at Park Bank—all are located within the campus. Employees might live in the nearby condos, apartments or houses, and walk or bike to work.

Amenities like these help tech campus tenants attract and retain quality employees. Campus design helps tenant businesses efficiently bring their innovative technology to market and grow profitably.

The Fitchburg campus off Fish Hatchery and Lacy roads boasts a 60,000-square-foot, $40 million data center that gives tenants ample data storage capacity and the ability to transmit large volumes of data via dedicated fiber lines. The shared, fully equipped conference room eliminates tenants’ need to have their own, and office and laboratory space can be customized to their needs. “So far we’ve attracted twenty-five companies with over six hundred employees,” notes Chris Armstrong, director of development and commercial leasing at developing company Avante Properties.

Locating near centers of learning provides pools of qualified talent for technology campuses. The Fitchburg campus is just a few miles from UW–Madison, and the McAllen T.E.C. Campus is on Madison’s east side, near MATC and Lakeland College. “It’s also near the airport and highway corridors, so the campus is convenient for commuters and travelers,” says Mike Mathews, senior vice president at developer Ruedebusch Development & Construction.

The T.E.C campus features an incubator, which is a facility for start-up businesses, with shared conference and training rooms, office equipment, and phone and Internet service. Suites’ arrangements are flexible, to accommodate expanding companies. “Typically businesses come into the incubator for two or three years, then move into larger spaces on campus,” Mathews explains. “A good example is Virent Energy Systems.”

University Research Park is perhaps the best known of Madison’s technology campuses. It opened off Mineral Point Road on Madison’s west side in 1984, when few people were familiar with the concept. In conjunction with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, or WARF, the park helps transform new technology developed at UW–Madison into commercially viable products. Companies often start out in the MGE Innovation Center, with its shared facilities, and then move on to other space on or off campus. “The park really ramped up in the late ’80s and early ’90s,” says Mark Bugher, park director. “Today we have 115 companies out here.”

A second University Research Park—which Bugher says will probably house more than two-hundred companies—is planned for Madison’s far west side, and an “urban incubator” is slated to open on East Washington Avenue. It will focus on attracting computer science, engineering and medical device companies.

In Middleton there’s Old Sauk Trails. Its developer, The Gialamas Company, constructed campus buildings designed to attract high-tech businesses, and it counts TomoTherapy and Supranet among its tenants. Sophisticated security systems, the latest in communications connectivity, and backup power generation are among the buildings’ features, along with open office space and common areas.

Sharing space and resources fosters networking among technology campus tenants. “There’s value in locating near like companies; it’s a built-in peer group of people sharing similar experiences,” Mathews says.

That’s why the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery are being designed with social areas expected to cultivate impromptu meetings among scientists. The twin institutes, one public, one private, will occupy the 1300 block of University Avenue, in the heart of the UW campus.

While it won’t be a technology campus, the collaborative, interdisciplinary research conducted there will likely lead to start-up companies that may locate at tech campuses. “It’ll bring together private researchers and public businesses that want to develop cures for the world’s health problems and make other breakthrough discoveries,” says Raymond Kessel, a UW associate professor of genetics.

The next area tech campus just may be in Sun Prairie. City leaders have discussed building a campus as part of their strategic business development plan. “Ideas have ranged from the city actually constructing and operating this sort of facility to finding the right developer to assemble the project,” says Neil Stechschulte, the city’s economic development coordinator. “Ideally the city would work with a private-sector partner to take the lead on building this sort of facility. It’s a model that’s worked in other communities, like Fitchburg and Middleton.” With today’s economic environment, he acknowledges it would be a mid- to long-term project for Sun Prairie.

These technology campuses are spurring economic development throughout the greater Madison area—and often tenant businesses offer high-paying jobs. So, if you’re a techie seeking work, start your search on campus.

Elijah Theus Jr. contributed to this story.

Madison Magazine - January 2009
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