Hacker Lab Tests Waters in Rancho Cordova

Rancho Cordova, CA (MPG)  |  By Shelly Lembke
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Dozens of people from business owners to ordinary citizens showed up at a Town Hall Idea Fest in Rancho Cordova (above). Attendees came both to hear from Hacker Lab representatives and to offer ideas of how the start up incubator might most effective serve the Rancho Cordova entrepneurs interested in joining. --Photo courtesy City of Rancho Cordova

Sacramento area “startup incubator” Hacker Lab recently partnered with the city of Rancho Cordova to host a Town Hall Idea Fest in February, seeking input and feedback from the community about what the possibilities for Hacker Lab could look like both for the nonprofit itself, as well as potential members.

The Town Hall Idea Fest was the next step in Hacker Lab’s feasibility study as the organization weighs its options in deciding where to open its third location in the Sacramento area. Beginning with its first site in the city of Sacramento, the group most recently opened a facility in Rocklin, working closely with that city and Sierra College. The Rocklin Hacker lab is currently expanding to nearly double the current size. Both locations have met with enthusiastic responses from sponsors, the cities and a booming membership, and it appears that Rancho Cordova is poised to follow suit.

The Idea Fest was held February 23 in Rancho Cordova at the American River Brewery. A crowd of over 100 people attended and brought a gaggle of ideas for what they felt the group could offer at a potential Rancho site, known as an Innovation Center.

Thus far, Hacker Lab is garnering a wide range of support from Rancho Cordova tech businesses, the city itself and citizens of all ages. Rancho Cordova Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Operations Office Diann Rogers is just one businessperson who sees the possibility of economic exponential growth for the city. Rogers is very supportive of Hacker Lab choosing Rancho Cordova for its next facility and has been since the beginning.

“The Rancho Cordova Chamber of Commerce strives to promote the prosperity of our members. The Hacker Lab would be an amazing addition to our business community,” said Rogers. “Their mission and that of the Chamber go hand-in-hand seeking to develop opportunities and foster creative ideas. Collaboration is a key part of our mission. Collaboration with Hacker Lab will be a win for all in Rancho Cordova.”

According Ashley Downton, Community Relations Specialist with the city of Rancho Cordova, Hacker Lab is currently considering some of the following relationships and offering for a new facility in Rancho Cordova:

  • Partnering with Soil Born Farms in Rancho Cordova for events.
  • Partnering with post-secondary schools in Rancho Cordova such as the Agee Fashion Institute.
  • Partnering with the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency on workforce development initiatives.
  • Partnering with the Cordova Community Council on events for artists in Rancho Cordova.
  • Beginning the search for potential locations for an innovation center in the City of Rancho Cordova.

“The overall goal of a Hacker Lab in the City of Rancho Cordova will be to support and create a maker and manufacturing community and brand Rancho Cordova as the region’s ‘Maker City,’ said Stidham.

While initial conversations between Hacker Lab and the city of Rancho Cordova have been quietly going on for some time, it is only recently that the news became known to the public. Representatives from Hacker Lab attended a City Council session late last fall, including their founding CEO Gina Lujan. Lujan is a Sacramento native and community innovation powerhouse.

Lujan’s credentials read exactly as the mover and shaker she is, having over 20 years as an Innovation Consultant and award-winner withthe likes of Northup Grumman, Toyota, Sacramento and Tuolumne and Sacramento Counties, Latina of Excellence in Information Sciences and Technology, Women’s Day, Women Who Mean Business and more. Lujan also excels at forging alliances with educational institutions and providing tech training and programs to underserved or at-risk youth in local communities, providing students with opportunities to see how acquiring technical knowhow could change their lives for the better.

“I strategize, build momentum, & develop opportunities for my team to execute innovative projects for our region, & community.”

Of her vision and direction of her team’s efforts, Lujan has been quoted online as saying. “We focus on community building, hacker & maker space development, regional support, & corporate, academic, and government innovation through grassroots education and spaces.” She has also has been quoted as describing herself as a “Visionary Orchestrator/Community Evangelist. I hack issues and support the wonderful world of creators.” In short, she gets things done.

Lujan’s outreach efforts began with an ad on Craigslist, but she and the nonprofit Hacker Lab have come a long way since then. In November, she appeared at a TEDx gathering in Livermore, speaking on the success of the group in inspiring crafts persons, small businesses and individuals by supplying tools, training and support for startups in the Sacramento area.

Currently, Hacker Lab member benefits, according to the group’s website, are effective and wide-ranging. “Our goal is to provide you with all the resources you need to learn new skills, meet people and launch a new venture.  This includes access to mentors, networking opportunities, and tons of more hands on tangible benefits.” To that end, Hacker Lab facilities currently include blazing fast Internet connections, unlimited specialty coffee, private conference and meetings rooms, web hosting, free job board postings, storage, a kitchen, laser printing and copying, 24-hour keycard access, manufacturing tools, equipment and space (a 3D printing lab, laser cutter, wood shop and tools, metal shop and tools and MIG, TIG and Oxy welding equipment) an Electronics Lab, Computer Lab and Textile Lab in their CoWorking and Maker Spaces.

Hacker Lab itself focuses on providing “Workspace,” education and a sense of community to all members. Dozens of classes in everything from working with bamboo to coding and more are provided for members. They describe themselves as “[A] Community for hackers, makers, entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses. We've got tech classes, maker space, prototyping tools…” We’re striving to be your go-to resource for all things education and entrepreneurship. From coworking, to rapid prototyping, learning. Our goal is to provide you with all the resources you need to succeed. Learn new skills, meet people, access equipment, and launch a new venture.  This includes access to mentors, networking opportunities, and tons of more hands on tangible benefits.”

The group has a clear statement of its philosophy and mission: “We believe that technology can change the world and the starting point is education. Hacker Lab aims to educate folks and spark innovation with community driven resources Collectively we can build a brighter future using lean methods in both education and business.”