Going Organic Magazine is now the educational component of the non-profit, "Transition to Organics, Coachella Valley". (read more)

Welcome to the CViHub

The Joy of Planting, Growing and Harvesting Green Businesses in The Coachella Valley

By Debra Gruszecki / Photography By Mark Davidson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT

The Rabobank Regional Business Center is now the headquarters for the Coachella Valley Economic
Partnership and the Coachella Valley Innovation Hub (CViHub). As such, it is starting to reap the harvest of green energy business. The CViHub is, in the purest sense of the word, its own power cell battery: clean, efficient, and built for the future.

The goal of an iHub is to stimulate economic growth and job development by encouraging the success of new companies in specially focused areas of research, such as renewable energy, green technologies, or sustainability. The 12 state-designated iHubs often “leverage assets such as research parks, technology incubators, universities, and federal laboratories to provide an innovation platform for startup companies, economic development organizations, business groups, and venture capitalists” (business.ca.gov).

So why should we care about having a local iHub? That’s easy: it creates jobs; it helps the local economy; it supports start-up companies; it encourages new “green” technology; it enhances the valley’s appeal to industry; and it improves the area’s professional reputation.

According to Thomas Flavin, CEO and President of CVEP, “It’s pretty basic, really. Our operating rules are simple: We remove the barriers to entrepreneurship” and seek to become a renewable center for entrepreneurial activity in the local area.

The CViHub is hosted by the cities of Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, and Cathedral City. Its depth areas of competence are renewable energy and enabling technologies that foster the probability of commercial success. So, as Joe Wallace, Managing Director of the CViHub, maintains, “We don’t incubate snow cone stands here.’’ The screening process is as rigorous as admission to some of the best universities.

“The iHub accelerates failures, as well as successes,’’ as Wallace puts it. This may sound a bit unusual, but the point is if a company is going to fail, it is better if it fails before huge sums of money are at risk. If investors are going to back a player, they want to know they are betting on the winner. To this end, Wallace wants “companies that are willing to make commitments required to pass through the valley of death: Twenty four may go in, and one or two get to come out, but those that emerge do so as significant generators of wealth and opportunity.”

HOW IT WORKS

Gathered under the roof of a retrofitted building that originally housed the Palm Springs Police Department, the iHub sits within walking distance of Palm Springs International Airport and City Hall. On any given day, the building hums not only with brain power, but also with the energy of electric vehicle converters, hydroponic gardening purveyors, energy storage inventors, LED light distributors, and energy management solution suppliers.

Budding ventures get free office space, a receptionist, use of copy machines and conference rooms, help with business planning, and connections with business resources and prospective “angel investors”-individuals or groups who usually invest their own funds to help start-up companies.

Judging by what people are saying, the iHub is on its way to great success:

  • “This has been money well-spent…. There’s no doubt that the iHub has been transformational for Palm Springs and the entire Coachella Valley.”
    —Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet.
  • “It’s in its infancy stages, but I believe the iHub will be a great benefit not only to Cathedral City but to the entire Coachella Valley…. It will bring in more tech-businesses; it allows for clean energy related businesses to be located here. It fits with the model we, in the Coachella Valley, are seeking.”
    —Cathedral City Mayor Kathleen DeRosa.
  • “We can manufacture or develop energy, but there is no way to store it. We need a reservoir for energy. If we can find a way to store the excess we produce, we could become the Silicon Valley for energy.”
    —Desert Hot Springs Mayor Yvonne Parks.
  • “There’s no stopping it…. Texas may have a corner on oil, but we have all the gifts of the earth that don’t exist anywhere else.”
    —Joe Wallace, Managing Director, CViHub.
  • “The economic health of any region comes down to jobs. For as long as I’ve been in Palm Springs, 18 to 19 years, we’ve always worked to try to develop what’s called the third leg of the stool. That third leg is manufacturing, the kinds of things incubating out of the iHub right now. The clean tech industry has finally matured to a point where an incubator makes sense.”
    —John Raymond, Palm Springs Economic Development Director.
  • “Innovation hubs help entrepreneurs
    in the early stages of developing a busi- ness. They identify their challenges, weaknesses, and connect them to the expertise these firms need to grow to the next level.”
    —Linda Kopp, Director of Policy Analysis & Research for the National Busi- ness Incubation Association of Ohio.
  • “All hands need to be on deck to create sustainable employment… and that is what the iHub at Rabobank Regional Business Center does.
    —Thomas Flavin, CEO and President of CVEP.