University of Texas at Austin

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

MCC “signs” off for the last time

The research consortium known as MCC died a long time ago, though it was the spark that fueled Austin’s rise as a technology center. Now the last visible reminders of the company are being removed.

The name of the company’s former headquarters building is being changed from the MCC building to the West Pickle Research building. It’s at 3525 W. Braker Lane, across MoPac Boulevard from the main Pickle Research Campus.

The new name reflects the building’s ownership by The University of Texas at Austin and its connection to the Pickle Campus.

The Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp., known as MCC, was formed in the early 1980s as a response to the rise of Japanese computer companies.

The idea was to combine the expertise of American computer companies in cooperative research. The competition came when companies made their own products from the research results.

Austin won a nationwide competition to be the home of MCC, putting Austin on the technology map. The university played a big role in landing MCC, donating the land on which the building was constructed.

It was a heady time in Austin. Technology companies such as IBM Corp. and Texas Instruments set up facilities in Austin, joining a handful of homegrown tech-related firms.

But MCC’s arrival thrust the city into the upper tier of technology cities and garnered attention in the national and international press.

I came to Austin in 1983 shortly after MCC did. Covering MCC and the emerging technology economy for the Austin Business Journal was a fascinating job.

Then a few years later, using their MCC experience, city, university, business and state leaders repeated their economic development feat landing the Sematech semiconductor research consortium. It still exists on land owned by the university in southeast Austin.

The MCC, uh, WPR building, is still the site of technology development. Tenants include the Austin Technology Incubator and its Clean Energy Incubator; the Office of Technology Commercialization; the Center for Space Research; the Center for Agile Technology; and the Institute for Advanced Technology.

The signs eventually will say “WPR,” but I’ll always see MCC.

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