NBCUniversal intends to bring a little slice of the Silicon Valley to Bergen County, and a parade of dignitaries was on hand Tuesday to cheer the company on as it cut the ribbon for its new Technology Center in Englewood Cliffs.
A $17 million renovation of the 63,000-square-foot building has brought technologies such as ultra-high-definition television and 3D printing to the site, along with more than 300 new jobs — raising the total at the site to 1,200 people.
“It really does represent something very special in New Jersey,” said one of those on hand, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. “Not just a $17 million renovation of a building, not just more than 340 new jobs in the state of New Jersey, but it also represents everything that is good about New Jersey.”
Indeed, anyone listening to the day’s remarks could hear the day was as much about job creation as it was new technology.
“New Jersey needs this private investment and job creation,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson). “It’s clear the tech industry is one of the places our economy is going to rely on in terms of job growth for the near future. That’s why I’m proud to see a great New Jersey corporate citizen, NBCUniversal, expanding its presence here in Englewood Cliffs and bringing a little bit of that technology world and perhaps even greater, to Bergen County.”
That’s not to say that ideas are not a big factor in the hopes for the Technology Center.
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“This isn’t your average office building,” said John Wallace, president of Operations & Technical Services for NBC Universal. “Think Silicon Valley tech firm right here in New Jersey.”
Indeed, the technological rivalry with California was on people’s minds.
“We’re going to give Silicon Valley some competition,” said Pascrell. “We’ve just started, right, New Jersey? We’ve just started.”
“What you are doing here is an invaluable lesson in how to keep up with technology,” Guadagno added. “I can’t think of any place I’d rather be today than to help you do that.”
One of the site’s major features is the new Media Labs incubator for technical innovations — harking back to the notion of luring the best and brightest minds to the door. The building has 11 offices, according to Ian Trombley, NBCUniversal’s executive vice president for Television Operations, with 31 collaborative spaces designed to facilitate creative discussions.
“This is a place that can attract and retain top talent,” he said.
Other notable features include a SmartBar, which offers expert technical help, and a “virtual hallway” for meetings, which “upgrade the experience we give to our business clients,” according to Atish Banerjea, NBCUniversal’s chief information officer.
But the heart of the site may well be its innovation labs, as demonstrated by Sanjay Macwan, chief technology officer for Media Labs. They are built to develop next-generation technology like virtual reality and augmented reality — think movie posters that come to life on your smart phone — and appeal to those who want to work with them.
“We are attracting vast talent from outside New Jersey,” Macwan said.
And attracting and keeping talent is key, everyone agreed.
“This is a big deal,” Pascrell said. “This is very, very important. Because jobs come and go, and we want to keep them here in the state of New Jersey.”
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