Pittsburgh officials search for cleanroom tenants

Chris Anderson

PITTSBURGH-As Seagate Techno logy readies its new research facility here, the fate of its current digs, a 16,000-square-foot cleanroom in a development called River Park Commons, remains in limbo. And with no tenants on the landscape to rent all or portions of the facility, the landlord fears he may be forced to close for good the ISO Class 10 and ISO Class 100 facility when Seagate leaves at the end of May.

Perhaps the most unique feature of the River Park Commons is its ISO Class 4, 5 and 6 (Class 10, 100, 1000) cleanrooms, which cover about 16,000 square feet, the largest facility of its type in western Pennsylvania.
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“It's a very expensive space to keep running,” says Ron Tarquinio, partner of RJ Equities, the owner of the building. “It would be costly to keep it functional while it's not occupied-as much as $30,000 a month.”

The potential shutting of the facility would have a dampening affect on the work of various state and non-profit agencies that have been trying to attract technology companies to the region. “We have a lot of companies in the area from MEMS to electro optics,” says Ron Maloney, vice president of business attraction with the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, an economic development coalition. “The problem is finding a single tenant to occupy the cleanroom or enough smaller tenants to use portions of the space.”

The difficulty of attracting a tenant is a sign of the economic times and a case of bad timing for a city that isn't yet well known as a technology hotbed. “Late last year we received a request for space, that we could not act on,” notes Maloney. “Now with the way the tech market has taken a beating, there is plenty of cleanroom space available all over the country.”

Kyle Lebouitz, chief technology officer and founder of Xactix Inc., a capital equipment provider for the MEMS industry hopes for an eleventh-hour solution that will keep the cleanroom running. “Since we are in the same building, it is helpful to see vendors stopping by to see us while they are here visiting Seagate,” he says. “Finding someone to lease the space will maintain the infrastructure needed to attract other technology companies.”

One possible solution, Maloney says, is to find a company that can serve as an anchor tenant and occupy the majority of the space. Any space it didn't need could be leased out, as needed, to smaller companies and start-ups, thus creating a de facto technology incubator.

“We are in very early discussions with one company to use the space this way, but it is still very early in the negotiations,” says Maloney. “Obviously it would need to work within this company's or any company's plan and make sense for the business. I'm encouraged by what I've heard, but I'd still say it's a fifty-fifty chance we can put this deal together.”


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