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L.A. Cleantech Incubator is getting room to grow

Work is set to begin on the 3.2-acre La Kretz Innovation Campus in L.A.'s arts district, which will give the nonprofit 10 times more space to nurture start-ups.

June 19, 2013|By Catherine Green, Los Angeles Times

One incubator company, Skyline Innovations, which installs solar-thermal systems for large residential buildings and low-income housing, has tackled more than 60 commercial-scale systems. The privately held company declined to report revenue, but a marketing representative said Skyline's 2011 sales were four times those in 2010, and 2012 numbers doubled the previous year's.

Another member of the incubator family, electric car charger provider 350Green, already had 600 stations in 20 markets when it was bought by Car Charging Group Inc. in Miami in July. Walti said the management team will have a home on the La Kretz campus to develop its next business.

Starting new companies, after all, means generating more jobs. Walti cited a study by the entrepreneurship nonprofit Kauffman Foundation, which used U.S. census numbers to show that on average, firms less than 5 years old collectively added 3 million jobs in their first year. Older firms lost about 1 million jobs annually.

Research also shows it's cheaper to create jobs through incubators than through community development. A study commissioned by the federal Economic Development Administration found jobs created by incubators cost about $180 each, compared with $3,000 for those that come from local projects. The study found 87% of incubated companies were still functional after five years, and 84% of them stayed near their incubator.

The Los Angeles incubator tries to focus on burgeoning companies dedicated to solving what Walti calls societal "pains." With the region's emphasis on sustainability and finding practical solutions to environmental deterioration, Walti said, L.A. provides an ideal living laboratory.

"That's what the whole corridor concept is all about," he said. "We're actually going to build companies that produce things. And while we're doing that, we're going to be making the planet better. What's wrong with that?"


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