Adtech systems needs a new home and the state needs a showcase of its high-tech talent.
Spirent Communications, Adtech Division President Tareq Hoque likes Kaimuki a lot. It has been the home of his company for more than 30 years: The garage where the business first started is close by and the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where Adtech, which specializes in computer network analysis work, gets many of its employees, is right down the street. But with his company doubling every 18 months, Hoque knows that the quaint neighborhood with the small-town feel is too small.
“We are adding about two to three new people every week,” says Hoque. “We have to address our facility needs in the short and long term. These are the types of things that can make or break your company.”
For the short term, next month Hoque will begin moving a portion of his staff into office space in the First Hawaiian Tower on the corner of Bishop and King Streets, a little too far from home base for his tastes but necessary nevertheless. In the long term, Adtech is looking to develop a 200,000- to-250,000-square-foot office complex on state land in Kakaako. The space will allow the company to hire approximately 600 more employees and still house the entire company’s workforce under one roof. It could cost the company as much as $60 million to build.
At first glance, a move to Kakaako was considered too far from the University and was rejected by Adtech officials. “But as we looked further, we couldn’t find suitable properties close by,” says Hoque. “We’d have to knock down a perfectly good building and put up something else.”
According to Joe Blanco, executive assistant to the Governor and special advisor of technology development, a high-tech park would fit nicely into Gov. Cayetano’s vision for the area, which would include Bishop Museum’s science and technology center, an aquarium (recently axed from the Governor’s budget by the State Legislature) and University of Hawaii’s new medical school.
“The Governor is basically looking for a high-tech company to partner with. What he is saying is that I have assets, Adtech you have assets,” says Blanco. “Let’s put them on the table and grow Hawaii’s industry.”
The state’s assets are the land, leased to the company at a nominal rate. Adtech, in turn, would provide scholarships, internships and equipment and space for UH students and faculty of comparable value. The deal would extend to any company interested in working with the state and Blanco says that Science Technology International (STI), another rising star in Hawaii’s tech world has expressed interest in joining Adtech in Kakaako. Blanco estimates that STI would need 100,000 square feet for its facility.
“Generally, we believe that building up the high-tech critical mass here is important, whether that be attracting business to relocate here or growing our own,” says Ann Chung, executive director of the Hawaii Technology Trade Association.
According to all three, it is imperative that Hawaii’s high-tech industry has some kind of central facility, where people could congregate and share ideas.
“It is extremely important for high-tech companies to be able to network. It is one of the things that we lack,” says Hoque. “If you go to Silicon Valley you get to rub shoulders in bars and restaurants. What you get is the idea transfer and brainstorming and this is very important to any high-tech center.”
Blanco believes that the transfer of ideas wouldn’t be just between Information Technology (IT) engineers. If the UH medical school and high-tech center indeed become neighbors, there could be some important synergy happening in the halls and laboratories in the two respective facilities.
“What you have now is an interesting thing happening in the biotech and IT fields,” says Blanco.
“Computerization is actually driving a lot of the research breakthroughs of late. What used to be done with human trials is now being done on computers and what used to take years has now been substantially reduced,” says Blanco. “It’s hard to predict what will happen when people get together and start talking.”
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