It’s moving day for Oorja Protonics, a fuel cell technology company that’s moving out of the Stevenson Business Park. But to the delight of the City of Fremont, Oorja is staying in town.
Oorja is one of dozens of biotech and clean-tech companies that has made Fremont its home. The city is number one in the country when it comes to the number of tech start-ups per capita. The list was compiled by San Francisco-based SizeUp.com.
City leaders say this report highlights that Fremont, with roughly 215,000 residents, may attract tens of thousands of jobs in the near future – great news, especially following the psychological blows from both NUMMI and Solyndra.
So why are so many start-ups settling in Fremont?
Companies like Oorja, Soraa, and Intematix tell NBC Bay Area that everything from infrastructure to a friendlier permitting process, as well as a central Bay Area location, all led to their final decisions.
Moreover, in 2009, city leaders decided to waive the usual business license fee for clean-tech startups new in town. Those fees can cost anywhere from a few-thousand to tens-of-thousands of dollars. The program was so successful that late last year, Fremont extended the program for another five years and included biotech companies to the mix. Any qualified company could get five years of relief from paying those fees. The city also decided to reward existing clean-tech and biotech startups by giving them two years of relief from the fees.
“It’s very critical because startups are usually cash-crunched,” said Gagan Singh, the marketing director for Oorja.
He added the chance to be a part of a flowing synergy with like-minded businesses in proximity was another big factor. “It sparks innovation, the chance to work with diff vendors . A lot of our suppliers are also based in Fremont.”
Fremont Economic Development Manager Christina Briggs adds there are “Big industrial heavyweights including Lam Research, Western Digital, Boston Scientific. Some of the startups are wanting to cluster around the bigger companies, as well.” Briggs says the highest priority for the city is bringing more emerging tech business to the Warm Springs area, anchored by Tesla’s factory.
In the meantime, Fremont Chamber of Commerce CEO Cindy Bonior says the city will keep a close eye on all non-tech businesses, especially with the boom of the “Pacific Commons” plaza that’s growing in dining, retail, and will feature a Whole Foods store next year.
“You always want to keep balance of the different businesses. I don’t think we’re at that crucial tipping point yet,” Bonior said. “We’re just trying to capture those dollars, retail dollars, that have otherwise gone outside of the city. Those are some of the tax dollars that help build infrastructure so critical to a thriving city.”
Singh is a wholehearted believer.
“This is basically another Silicon Valley waiting to happen.”