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New Technology Park Chairman Wants to Build Awareness of a ‘Gem’
Paul Adornato

Paul Adornato says one of his priorities is to raise the profile of the STCC Technology Park.

Paul Adornato admits that he didn’t know much about the Technology Park at STCC before he was asked to lead the board that oversees operations there and conducts long-term strategic planning for the facility.

“I knew it existed, but didn’t know any of the history,” he explained, adding that he understood that it had assumed space, several hundred thousand square feet of it, across Federal Street from the campus, once occupied by Digital Equipment Corp., but not much else.

What he knew of the Andrew M. Scibelli Enterprise Center at the tech park, which features two small-business incubators, was all that he could gather (again, not much) during a brief visit when he accompanied his daughter, who was at that time in the process of starting her own business, to a seminar on how to get such ventures off the ground.

Suffice it to say that Adornato has been given a crash course on the 12-year-old park since he was asked to chair the STCC Assistance Corp. (STCCAC), the body created by a special act of the state Legislature in 1996 to manage what has become an award-winning, unique facility. But while getting that education, he has been reflecting on his own prior ignorance concerning the park’s mission and operations — and quickly realizing that he certainly wasn’t alone.

Indeed, if Adornato, a retired senior vice president at MassMutual and an individual who, in his own words, is “committed to Springfield,” didn’t know how or why the park was formed and that it now houses companies employing close to 900 workers, then many others are likely still in the dark.

Thus, shedding some light on the situation and creating more awareness of the park and its reason for being are priority one for Adornato, who succeeds Brian Corridan, the original chairman of the STCCAC, who stepped down from that post late last fall. Such awareness is key, said Ardornato, because it is the foundation on which a stronger, financially healthier tech park can be built.

“I was thinking about how much I didn’t know about the tech park,” he told BusinessWest, referring to the conversations he had late last fall with Corridan, STCC President Ira Rubenzahl, and others that effectively brought him up to speed. “In talking to some of my peers, I found that they didn’t really know much about this gem, either.

“And that’s what excites me about this opportunity,” he said of his new assignment. “We have a chance to educate a lot of people about what we have here.”

As part of a broad strategy to get the word out, and thus draw more technology-related tenants to the park, Adornato said he’ll work with his board and college officials to correct many of the misconceptions about the facility. “There are several,” he said, starting with the common belief that it is occupied mostly or entirely by state agencies.

There are a few — the Mass. Department of Revenue’s Child Support Division is in the park, as is the Mass. Rehab Commission — but the facility is filled mostly with technology-related private and publicly held businesses.

That list includes Western Mass. Electric Co., Fibertech Networks, Crocker Communications, One Communications, MAP Internet, MCI Worldcom, Northeast Optic Network, Springboard Technology, Wiltel Communications, and others. There are also several startups, such as Mindwing Concepts, which creates reading and literacy aids for the classroom, and Magellan Works, a staffing agency; a few non-profits, such as Valley Radio Reading Service; FutureWorks, the one-stop career center; and some established companies such as the engineering firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB).

Other misconceptions, said Adornato, include the belief that the entire park is an incubator, that tenants are subsidized by the state, and that the park itself does not pay city taxes.

“There are a lot of negatives out there concerning the park,” he explained. “If we can get the real story out about how the park works and the value it brings to the area, people will see that this as probably a key to the future economic vitality of this region.”

Adornato told BusinessWest that one strategy he may pursue is staging receptions at the park for players in target markets — specifically companies in technology-related sectors, but also business groups and even state legislators — to build awareness and possibly recruit tenants for the immediate future and also further down the road.

“This method has worked for me with other things I’ve done during my career,” he explained. “You start by identifying your customers, reaching out to them, and then bringing them together. If you can show them something they’re not fully aware of, it’s an education for them, something that can help them.”

Looking forward, Adornato said he wants to build more synergy not only between the park and STCC, but between the facility and other institutions, especially UMass Amherst.

Elaborating, he said he would like to attract businesses that would complement existing programs at STCC and other schools or perhaps inspire new ones in ways that would start building new job bases, in areas such as sustainable energy or biotechnology, and also secure adequate workforces to grow those new or emerging clusters.

“We should be able to do a much better job of tying in to UMass and the technology that’s emerging there,” he said. “We should also be tying in more to what’s happening here at STCC. With the infrastructure we have at the tech park and the technical community college across the street, we should be able to provide an attractive workforce to help this region grow.”

The tech park is still a player in the state’s quest to locate a data center in Springfield, he said, noting that the former Technical High School is also a candidate. While continuing to pursue that prize, the STCCAC will also explore other means to fill remaining space (the facility is about 80% occupied) and thus put the park, the first of its kind in the country and probably the world, on more-secure financial ground.

For starters, though, Adornato wants to focus on awareness-building efforts, because after 12 years in business, the Technology Park shouldn’t be a mystery to anyone in the Pioneer Valley.

— George O’Brien

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