Think of an area with a cluster of high-tech companies with a brilliant workforce and world-class research laboratories and universities nearby. You probably thought of California’s Silicon Valley or Massachusetts’s Route 128 corridor. It’s the objective of Einstein’s Alley (EA), a 501(c)(4) corporation located in Central New Jersey, to put the superlative collection of tech and academia positioned between Princeton and Rutgers on the same footing as those two renowned scientific giants.
Einstein’s Alley is the culmination of a long-gestating economic initiative from business and academic leaders in Central New Jersey, led by Congressman Rush Holt, to emphasize and market the incredible tech strengths of this region of the Garden State. The region, stretching across Middlesex, Somerset, Mercer, Monmouth and Hunterdon counties, was dubbed Einstein’s Alley in 2003, and the organization took that name and incorporated it in late 2006. EA’s mission is to showcase the innovation and technology of the region in an effort to attract and retain businesses in the area, and to encourage the growth of jobs and services.
In this interview with COMMERCE, Einstein’s Alley Executive Director Katherine Kish discusses attracting businesses to Central New Jersey, showcasing innovation to appeal to high-tech firms, advocating for a business cluster in Central New Jersey, raising capital, working with angel investors and creating jobs for returning veterans. Here are her thoughts and insights on these important issues.
Developing a Tech Cluster: “We try to make people aware of what’s already here. Our Web site contains everything you could possibly need—links to associations, government programs, legal help, funding, marketing services—you name it. We’ve specifically spotlighted businesses. If we see an interesting business and think it’s got a good story to tell, we’ll have an event there. We’ll invite media and politicians and all the people that need to come and recognize that company. What people see in Einstein’s Alley is that if we can make this region better known, then everybody benefits. Businesses like to hang together, so you see these clusters developing.”
Showcasing Innovation: “One company we focused on was Rive Technology. They make a petroleum accelerator that makes petroleum more effective as a fuel. They had a headquarters in Massachusetts, and they were looking around the country to set up a research headquarters. They contacted Einstein’s Alley and we pulled together a team to look at available facilities and to talk about government programs that could be attractive to them. I even helped one of their key employees find a good dentist in the area for their child. We really held their hands, and they eventually chose to settle in South Brunswick.”
A Voice in Trenton: “We collaborate with Choose NJ and the Business Action Center. Choose NJ has a quasi-state role, and we’re supportive of their mission. They are the salespeople that are going to other states and other countries to sell New Jersey. We are more of a marketing/branding organization. We’re working to establish the name and the recognition of this R&D sector in Central New Jersey.”
Helping Businesses Raise Capital: “In partnership with the Delaware Crossing Investment Group in Pennsylvania, we’ve developed a new angel investor group. Existing financial investor groups here in New Jersey often invest in places like Silicon Valley instead of investing here. Our group meets in Lawrenceville and looks at companies for investment purposes. We’re always trying to make entrepreneurs more aware of what and who’s here.”
Selling Central New Jersey: “The transportation advantages and great quality of life are great assets to New Jersey, but most important is our highly skilled workforce. If you’re in Central New Jersey, you have access to the more than 50 college and university campuses, and we have the best-educated workforce in the whole country in terms of degree completions and graduate degrees. There’s so much research being done here, and that’s very attractive to technology companies.”
Creating Opportunities for Veterans: “Einstein’s Alley did set up a program specifically for veterans called Vet Career Connect. If a veteran returns with a certain set of skills, like servicing tanks in Iraq, sometimes local employers don’t know how to utilize that in their companies. So we emphasize their project management skills and their abilities to analyze a complex technical task. PSEG, for example, was very interested in vets that completed the program. Companies need new talent to replace retirees in the jobs that require physical prowess, and we show them that the military is often a great place to find that talent.”
// To learn more about Einstein’s Alley, please visit einsteinsalley.org. //