Corbett says California trade mission lines up prospects
By Thomas Olson
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, 12:36 p.m.
During a two-day “trade mission” to Silicon Valley, Gov. Tom Corbett said a delegation of Pennsylvania entrepreneurs and state officials made headway with California companies interested in investing in the commonwealth.
“This is a courtship period, to demonstrate what Pennsylvania has available for companies,” said Corbett during a conference call on Wednesday.
As a result, two information technology companies in California agreed to check out Pennsylvania's prospects soon, he said, declining to name the companies.
The governor, along with 15 entrepreneurs and CMU and Pittsburgh Technology Council officials, visited 40 California venture capitalists and executives of established technology companies, such as Facebook Inc., Hewlett Packard Co., Electronic Arts Inc. and Google Inc.
“The purpose of the meetings can be described in one word, and that's ‘jobs,' to bring them to Pennsylvania,” Corbett said during the call, which was held on Carnegie Mellon University's Silicon Valley campus in Moffett Field, Calif.
The governor and others on the trade mission met with executives of Google on Tuesday, to discuss the company's presence in Pennsylvania, including its office in East Liberty.
“Pennsylvania has been a great home to Google Pittsburgh, where we have more than 200 employees,” said Jordan Newman, spokesman for the Mountain View, Calif., company. “We were happy to have the governor visit our headquarters to learn about Google and find ways to continue to work together.”
Tom Joseph, CEO of Epiphany Solar Water Systems Inc., New Castle, was one entrepreneur who met with some of the California venture capitalists, whose combined assets are worth more than $20 billion, according to Corbett's office.
Joseph's early-stage company produces a solar-powered water-purification system aimed at helping an estimated 2 billion people without much access to drinkable water.
“When I'm in Pittsburgh, a lot of investors I talk to say I'm thinking too big,” Joseph said. “When I say we have these water systems that are going to change the world, they say, ‘can't you take it step-by-step first?”
Joseph said he “can't think that way” and is more attuned to most California venture capitalists, “who don't even want to talk to you unless you've got a billion-dollar idea.”
Corbett said California's technology companies and their investors seemed especially interested in Pennsylvania for its relatively low cost of energy and the high caliber of its college graduates, particularly those from CMU.
“We want to attract companies to use the students we have in Pennsylvania, and to use them in Pennsylvania,” Corbett said.
“The interest in Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh is strong. It's not to be underestimated,” said Audrey Russo, president of the Technology Council, which helped organized the trip.
“Everyone is extremely interested,” in possible investments in this region, Russo said of the California venture capitalists. “But it takes time to build this type of community.”
Thomas Olson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached a 412-320-7854 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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