By David Benda, Record Searchlight, May 2013

About a year ago, Rick Sbrocca pitched an idea to the Economic Development Corp. of Shasta County.

Sbrocca would use his Silicon Valley connections to help the north state become a back-office hub for high-tech companies looking for cost-saving alternatives.

Axcient and Tegile Systems, Bay Area-headquartered data storage companies recently opened sales and tech-support centers in Redding.

Mountain View-based Axcient works in a suite inside Frozen Gourmet off Airport Road. The EDC uses the space as a business “accelerator,” or incubator.

Tegile Systems, headquartered in Newark, works out of a space in the Sharrah Dunlap Sawyer building on Lockheed Drive near the Redding Municipal Airport.

“It’s more cost-effective; we are up to 40 percent less than doing the same thing in the Bay Area,” said Sbrocca, an independent contractor who runs Spiritus Solutions and sits on the EDC board.

Sbrocca also believes the north state can offer a more stable workforce, which means lower risk of turnover and the headache of hiring and training new employees.

Seven years ago, Sbrocca convinced NComputing of Redwood City to open a sales and technical office in Redding. The virtual desktop company helps clients integrate computer systems.

Sbrocca headed up NComputing in Redding and helped it grow by hiring graduates from Simpson University and Bethel Christian’s School of Supernatural Ministry. Today, the company has roughly 50 employees who work out of an office on Hemsted

Gary Schmidt, who chairs Simpson’s business department, said the key is developing an educated and well-trained work force.

“You have this vicious cycle of unless you have the educated work force, you won’t have the companies. But if you don’t have the companies, you don’t get the educated work force,” Schmidt said. “We just need to continue to build that cycle
of more companies, more opportunities with more students graduating to fill those opportunities.”

Chad McCulley, a former student of Schmidt’s, is heading up Axcient’s office in Redding. Schmidt’s referral helped McCulley land a job at NComputing before he moved on to Axcient.

“He is among a pool of students to go to work at NComputing,” Schmidt said.

McCulley was ready to leave Redding before Schmidt convinced him to join Sbrocca at NComputing.

“It was the lack of opportunity,” McCulley said of his initial desire to leave the north state. “I had planned to get my MBA, but I found Rick right at decision time.”

EDC President Mark Lascelles said NComputing has funneled millions into the local economy.

Axcient has nine employees who start around $40,000 year, McCulley said.

“We expect more and more (companies to follow) as demand for things such as cloud storage grows and the international market grows,” Lascelles said.

Marketing the north state to employers as a cheaper alternative to the Bay Area or Southern California is nothing new. However, Lascelles believes the north state is in a better position today than 20 years ago.

“The labor force has grown and in that growth is a change in the educational composition of the labor force,” Lascelles said, adding that Simpson and Bethel are turning out the skilled workers to fill the needs of employers like Axcient, NComputing
and Tegile. “It’s all about education.”

Sbrocca came to Redding more than a decade ago from Southern California and for a time helped Simpson build its enrollment, Schmidt said.

“Once he was at Simpson, he saw inside the potential of our students,” Schmidt said.

In addition to Simpson and Bethel, Sbrocca has tapped students from Southern California-based Azusa Pacific, another private Christian school.

Sbrocca said students are willing to take less money for a better quality of life and more affordable place to live.

For most graduates, these back-office jobs are not going to be a permanent career, Schmidt said.

“But it certainly gives them a first experience and great reference from which to” continue on with their career, he said.

Lascelles credits EDC member businesses for playing in a role in bringing Axcient and Tegile to Redding.“