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LA city officials launch cleantech incubator project downtown

Officials gathered in downtown’s Arts District Tuesday night to launch the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, the first major project on a stretch of land Mayor Antonio Villaragoisa has dubbed the “cleantech corridor.”

Around tables topped with bright green cloths, officials drank organic cocktails and listened to a joyous Mayor Villaraigosa praise Los Angeles’ new cleantech Incubator.

But these days exuberance isn’t routine in the green-tech business. Mariana Gerzanych helped establish 350-Green, a company that builds and operates electric vehicle charging stations. She says her business must meet customer demands.

“It has to come down to the bottom line for drivers. If it’s not convenient or cost-effective, it won’t happen. It’s too big a purchase to be driven only by environmental factors," she says.

Gerzanych's business was the incubator’s first tenant, and she says she’s eager to get started.

“A charging infrastructure is only one small part of a large clean-tech ecosystem. It’s very important for us to be in close proximity to other companies,” she says.

The incubator is the first of its kind in Los Angeles. The project’s Neal Anderson says many green companies exist, but they’re scattered throughout the city. Anderson says the incubator will offer start-ups the tools to showcase their products to potential buyers. He describes the project as high risk - and high reward.

“For every dollar in public investment spent on this kind of a project, the return is $30 on that investment in terms of jobs and taxpayer revenue," says Anderson. "And at the end of the day this is about creating jobs, this is about creating a new green economy.”

Anderson says his team seeks companies that can become self-sufficient. He points to Mariana Gerzanych’s company, 350-Green; it found private investment from the Walgreens pharmacy chain. Together they plan to build 35 fast-charging stations at Walgreens stores throughout Los Angeles.

"The incubator is the business-equivalent of a baseball farm system relative to the green economy here in Los Angeles," Fred Walti told KPCC's Blogdowntown. Walti is the Executive Director hired to get the organization up and running.

"I see it as a huge business opportunity, aside from all the good things it is going to do for the environment," he says.

KPCC's Eric Richardson contributed to this report.