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Robert Trigaux

Amid ribboncutting banter, the serious arrival of Draper Laboratory in Tampa Bay



As ribbon cuttings go, this morning's ThankYouFest at the new Draper Laboratory "multi-chip module" (MCM) facility off Gandy Boulevard in St. Petersburg wasn't bad theater. Draper, the MIT spin-off based in Cambridge, Mass., held a 10 am ceremony recognizing all the various partnerships, federal and state legislators, states, counties, cities and economic development groups that played some part in greasing the wheels to get Draper to open two facilities in Tampa Bay. The second facility, 10,000 square feet (soon to double in size) is a bioengineering operation literally inside a University of South Florida building off Fowler Avenue in Tampa. That ribbon cutting takes place at 2pm.

Here's a short synopsis of the morning ceremony, which was handled by master of ceremony Len Polizzotto, the "face" of Draper in Florida thus far, an apparent rock and roll drummer in his rare spare time and the closest thing to a nanotech-stand-up comic I've encountered -- granted, a slim category. When Polizzotto, who is short, was about to introduce St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who is tall, Polizzotto climbed a step ladder behind the podium to be on equal footing. The quick mayor responded by bounding to the podium -- on his knees. (See photo above, by Cherie Diez of the St. Petersburg Times.)

JamesShieldsDraper We may have witnessed a Guinness Book of World Record in the frequency of "Thank You!" expressed by the following speakers:Draper's Polizzotto, Progress Energy Florida CEO Vince Dolan, Rep. Bill Young, Mayor Baker, Pinellas County Commission chairman Calvin Harris, USF president Judy Genshaft, Pinellas County economic development director Mike Meidel, St. Petersburg Downtown Partnershhip chief Peter Betzer and Draper CEO James Shields. (See photo, left)

Jamesshieldsrayspitcher As Shields deadpanned: "If you were looking for the pitcher with a 95 mile-per-hour fastball, I am not that James Shields" -- referring to the Tampa Bay Rays starter.

Jovial banter aside, Draper's now operating from a building, complete with a "clean room" for high-tech manufacturing, once owned by Oerlikon. Draper bought the building and, with upgrades, spent more than $10 million. "Multi-chip modules" or MCMs are miniaturized chips that Draper makes for -- to use the company's words -- "its sponsors" which pretty much means Homeland Security and Defense Department clients. It was also pointed out that in Draper's history, it was a key factor in guidance systems to get men on the moon, and Draper technology is a fundamental in our ballistic missile system.

We'll be hearing more from Draper, for sure. And thanks for asking.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:26am]


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