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UA’s Center for Innovation is part of El Tour de Zona; making relationships, creating business

The University of Arizona Center for Innovation is a startup incubator network with outposts across Southern Arizona.

It’s a reason they have a presence in Sierra Vista for the Benson Hospital El Tour de Zona. That’s why Eric Smith and Casey Carrillo are here, talking to the community and visiting cyclists about the community and its potential.

Eric Smith and Casey Carrillo of UA’s Center for Innovation make their presence at El Tour de Zona.

“Our core business is to work with scalable science and technology startup companies,” said Eric Smith, Executive Director of the University of Arizona’s Center for Innovation. It’s part of UA’s Tech Parks Arizona. “We do this through programming and through space. And the reason that we do it is for economic development for our region. When the startups are successful, they attract capital, they hire employees, they purchase infrastructure. As we become more well known and more successful in this work, we’ve begun to work with other regions where there’s a need.”

Smith pointed out there is a biotech incubator in Oro Valley and have established a relationship in Sahuarita.

“What we’re trying to help them do is find and serve whatever tech companies might be in the region or to invigorate some of that activity so that those startups can benefit those economies as well,” he said.

That’s why they are here in Sierra Vista. They see the potential.

“We’re working with the city to identify what potential there is for tech startup companies and if we can add value by serving them,” Smith said, “(additionally) if you’re going to have a presence even if you’re exploring the presence in a region, we want to make sure to support the community in general. So, it wasn’t too hard to come down and support something like this.”

It helps with visibility on all levels. It also helps El Tour de Zona in hosting them. They had a booth for registration, meeting and greeting people for the ride, while explaining what their presence is.

Their area of expertise is “scalable science and tech,” Smith said.

So when they are first involved with a community, “we want to make sure that we can serve them, so oftentimes with our startup companies, they come knowing the technology — it’s our job to know how to wrap a startup company around that to obtain funding resources, things of that nature. We want to play to the region strengths.”

For example, cyber security is one possibility, given Ft. Huachuca is nearby.

“There are also other regional strengths we are exploring, as well, but cyber is one of them,” he said.

This is not the first time Center for Innovation officials have been down here. Over the last 18 month, they’ve explored the area and “talked to community leaders, trying to just be a little bit more of a part of the community. We want to make sure that when we do establish something here that we’re actually adding value and we’re serving the community.”

Smith said the community has “been incredible” in receiving them.

“We’ve had the fortune of working with the economic development folks with Industrial Development Authority (IDA) with the chamber. I mean, everybody has been extremely friendly, welcoming. In fact, we didn’t approach coming to Sierra Vista, we always want to make sure that there’s a need. And so we were approached to come down here and so it’s been fantastic.”