The foundation of the region’s information technology (IT) cluster is rooted in strong links to a robust aerospace and defense industry that rapidly grew in the 1950s and 1960s. The first wave of IT activity occurred in the 1980s and 1990s when several technology firms in the San Francisco Bay Area built major campuses in the region, utilizing the strong engineering base, lower costs of living and business operations, and available land. Apple, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, and NEC (now TELEFUNKEN Semiconductors) were examples of this eastward expansion. Combined, these facilities now employ over 10,000 workers.
The current wave of IT activity is being fueled from many sources, including major technology institutions and also these companies’ suppliers and spin-offs such as Micron and Care Innovations, an Intel and GE company. SynapSense is an example of talent from Intel and UC Davis combining forces to create this national leader in energy efficiency focused solutions for data centers. Innovation and start-up activity is increasing rapidly, with examples such as Bio-Ware, an online gaming software company founded in Sacramento that is now a division of Electronic Arts (EA), and Glue Networks, a company offering corporate connectivity solutions through network automation. Hacker Lab is an example of grass roots innovation and entrepreneurs coming together in a physical location to create IT solutions, companies, and jobs, and there are currently over 30 companies involved and several hundred members after just one year. These examples and literally hundreds of other innovative technology companies find the Sacramento Region an exciting place to grow an idea into a company, and the two major public universities, UC Davis and Sacramento State, both have strong and dynamic computer science and engineering programs bolstering the local labor force with well trained and highly skilled workers.
Other benefits of the region include its seismic stability, and the area has been ranked the number one least prone to natural disaster based on national climatic and geological data, which is very important for mission-critical operations such as data centers. With three strong utilities, two of them municipally owned, and the most advanced technology for green buildings, energy costs can be minimized. The region also has an abundant and high quality water supply, which is an important factor for manufacturing operations. Most importantly, while being only 70 to 100 miles from the San Francisco Bay Area, the Sacramento Region has a cost of living drastically lower than its coastal neighbors, and is centrally located among the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, Napa Valley, the “Gold Country,” Yosemite National Park, and the coast—all within range of a daytrip.
With its slogan “Build. Code. Unite,” Hacker Lab is an innovative community-based gathering place of technology education, mentoring, and design. Started by three people who found each other online, after one year the center now has 45 associated start-up companies and is rapidly increasing both its tenant and member list. The organization hosts such events as the Cereal Hack, Startup Weekend, and soon-to-be Makers Fair. Completely privately funded by donors and members, the grassroots organization already has its sights set on other communities within the Sacramento Region in addition to its midtown Sacramento space.
Hacker Lab’s philosophy is as follows, “We believe that technology can change the world and the starting point is education. We aim to educate folks and seed startups with community driven resources. Collectively we can build a brighter future using lean methods in both education and business.”