For tenants of the South Jersey Technology Park (SJTP) at Rowan University, it’s going to be a little tough to find a spot to grab a sandwich away from the office these days.
The breakroom on the second floor of the expansive facility on Route 322 near Route 55 in Mantua Township soon will be home to an entrepreneur who is developing some hush-hush next-gen technology.
Little space left
“We’re just about completely out of space,” said Jeanne Nevelos, newly appointed executive director of the SJTP and managing director of Rowan Innovations, housed at the 45,000-square-foot facility.
Nevelos, who’s been with Rowan about 18 months, is charged in part with introducing the existing facility – the Samuel H. Jones Innovation Center – to potential tenants and outlining the opportunity to develop new buildings on the 200-acre site a mile from Rowan’s main campus and an easy commute to Philadelphia, Atlantic City, New York City and Washington, D.C.
Reaching capacity is not a bad problem to have.
In the last two years, demand has increased dramatically for space in SJTP, which opened in 2008.
Home to 20 companies, five research centers and a business incubator, SJTP represents the intersection of government, industry and the entrepreneurial community, with organizations tapping into University resources for innovation projects and applied research, often working with Rowan interns and full-time employees.
It was hard to miss the smell of Hunan and cashew chicken at the end of the second floor on a recent spring day. Chopsticks at the ready, white cartons on their desks, Dilan DeSilva and Ed Nieves were having breakfast . . . and lunch. It was 4 p.m., and as usual things were busy in SalonClouds, where rows of designers and programmers work on, among other projects, apps for beauty salons around the globe and work for clients that include FedX, Amazon and Roadrunner.
DeSilva, CEO, founded SalonClouds in 2012 after years working in IT for major regional firms. Nieves joined the firm as vice president a year and a half ago, after running his own marketing consulting firm and working in new business development and investor relations.
Found small -- and larger -- home in SJTP
SalonClouds started in the SJTP incubator – then a warren of small first-floor offices and cubicles – in a 6x8’ space, soon adding two cubicles. “Within months, we took over the entire incubator space,” DeSilva said.
Just two months after hiring Nieves, the firm grew to include three project managers, four graphic designers, two programmers and a bookkeeper – and a need for much more space. SalonClouds moved into more than 2,000 square feet one floor up from the incubator, into space customized by SJTP for the expanding firm – and outfitted with such amenities as orange and aqua memory foam-type chairs, a Superwoman print and a plastic Darth Vadar and inflatable C3PO by the SalonClouds team.
“Things took off,” said Nieves, who originally planned to work with DeSilva four hours a days, three days a week and who now works up to 10 hours a day, full time for this high-growth company.
DeSilva had many options as to where to locate his business and originally had thought to open in Philadelphia. A colleague referred him to SJTP, and today he not only values the space but also the location and the ability to tap into Rowan resources – 95 percent of his employees are Rowan students who started as interns and moved into full-time positions.
“This is a growing region,” DeSilva said. “There’s a plethora of talent here, and it’s untapped. I want to create a technology corner in South Jersey that puts us on the map. Our goal is to grow here.”
Added Nieves, “SJTP team members have been great partners with us, including introducing us to local businesses for mutually beneficial relationships.”
Nevelos said that SJTP has grown from a handful of companies to more than 20 in the last year and a half.
“We are creating different size spaces, from virtual to a single desk to thousands of square feet,” she noted.
Today, SJTP includes organizations focused on the diverse fields of life sciences, medical devices and diagnostics, digital health, IT and defense. The staff also developed monthly programming and networking events to foster collaboration and community among various SJTP stakeholders, bridging relationships among current and prospective tenants; Rowan faculty and key administrators; and government, business and industry partners to grow the SJTP entrepreneurial ecosystem. Soon, all of Rowan’s Research staff will be centralized at SJTP, creating a central place to better serve clients, faculty and students.
Bringing people, companies together
“The goal of SJTP is to bring together a mix of entrepreneurial companies to create a community that helps each other to thrive and grow,” Nevelos said. “The building is the facility. Rowan Innovations is the glue that bridges the connections among tenants and business partners geared to working with entrepreneurs.” DeSilva, for instance, offers advice to other tenants on technology and provides cost-effective digital marketing services to SJTP companies and partners.
“It’s a nice symbiotic relationship we are trying to develop with our tenants,” Nevelos said.
That’s good news for Tyra Causey, who heads a small firm with a lot of determination, so much so that she recently landed a major government contract.
Causey, a U.S. Air Force veteran (retired master sergeant/E7) and member of the Air National Guard, is founder and owner of Amelioration, an SJTP virtual tenant.
Amelioration is multi-faceted: the firm provides B2B human resources and administrative support for small to mid-size business and government organizations, workforce education, development and instruction, government contracting and K-12 and collegiate academic support.
Causey, recently accepted into a program at Harvard Business School, was an education and training manager with the Air Force. She earned a bachelor’s degree in workforce education and development from Southern Illinois University and is pursuing a master’s degree in higher education administration at Rowan. Work is a whirlwind these days, and she doesn’t recall if she found SJTP or SJTP found her.
Nonetheless, she’s happy with the relationship. She can use classroom space, tap into students and professionals as resources and learn in a high-tech environment herself, further developing skills she can bring to her clients.
She appreciates the technology at her fingertips and being around people who can educate her even more. “I utilize their technology to such a high level, and I teach it to my clients,” said Causey, whose firm holds numerous certifications, including Women-Owned Small Businesses by the Small Business Administration, Minority and Women Business Enterprises by the State of New Jersey and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business and Veteran-Owned Small Business by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Nevelos recognizes that Rowan Innovations and SJTP, as the technology and economic development arm of Rowan University, serve both the community and the University. “We are seeing great potential for our tenants to create even more jobs that can positively impact the South Jersey economy,” Nevelos said.
One of SJTP’s newest tenants is one of the largest employers in South Jersey.Inspira Innovations, part of the Inspira Health Network, has had a one-man shop at SJTP since September 2017 and will open expanded offices in June.
David Johnson, vice president of Inspira Innovations and Operations Consulting, has been responsible for 15 years for operations improvement for the health network, which is building a new hospital across Route 322 from SJTP. His work focuses on areas as diverse as personnel, processes, efficiencies and cost effectiveness.
At the end of last year, Inspira launched its innovation center to understand and collect “internal brilliance” from staff, physicians and residents and give them an opportunity to transform exceptional ideas into reality. Among the recent initiatives Inspira Innovations supported was Inspira Health Plus. This includes wearable technology that can help educate patients about health and wellness and assist them in managing chronic illness.
Johnson’s operation is a natural fit for SJTP.
“We’re building our innovation center at the South Jersey Technology Park,” Johnson said. The center will offer space and provide resources for any Inspira employee whose idea an Innovation Center Council has evaluated and accepted. Successful applicants will become Innovation Fellows, with time off from their protected job to develop their ideas.
The 2,400-square-foot Inspira site will include collaboration areas, conference rooms, testing labs and more. There will be a simulated patient’s room and a living room where entrepreneurs can test technology.
“We could have easily built the Innovation Center on the same campus as the new hospital, but I really wanted to be around other companies that were just getting off the ground,” Johnson said. “I wanted to be around people with an entrepreneurial mindset. I wanted to see what would be coming in and out of SJTP, maybe collaborate with other companies and tap into students and faculty. We felt like being in proximity of the campus we’d be able to attract students to work with us and certainly faculty. We know that we’ll need research done with some of these projects. We want to be in the University setting for that reason.”