April 06, 2006
By: by Barbara Pinckney, Staff Writer, The Business Review
About five years ago, Sawchuk Brown Associates formed a practice group to focus on the region's nascent technology sector.
The Albany public relations firm may have been slightly ahead of its time. The technology firms that were springing up in the area were, for the most part, too new to include Sawchuk Brown's services in their limited budgets. The Technology Practice Group was allowed to fade away.
Now the region's technology sector is maturing and companies are eager to tell their stories. For Sawchuk Brown, the time was right to revive the Technology Practice Group.
"We realized we needed to have a group that could focus on these areas and go after clients more aggressively, " said David Brown, president of Sawchuk Brown.
The practice group will be made up of five or six people, including some new hires. Leading the unit as tech practice coordinator will be Erica Dart, who joined the firm last fall and has held the title of senior account executive.
Dart is the former manager of public relations for Boston-based online- and video-game publisher Turbine Inc. She previously had her own firm in California, with several technology clients.
Among the new hires is Mollie Rooney, who spent the past five years as marketing communications manager for Sprint. Rooney joined Sawchuk Brown in February as assistant vice president.
The group will focus on software and applications development, "new energy," telecommunications, biotechnology, advanced materials, optoelectronics and nanotechnology.
Sawchuk Brown's client roster already includes some firms in these categories, including DayStar Technologies, a Halfmoon-based solar technology company; Latham fuel-cell maker Plug Power Inc.; Crystal IS, a Green Island developer of products for the semiconductor industry; and Logical Net, a Schenectady Internet services provider.
"If that is what they are doing, re-energizing the technology group, that is probably one of the best strategic moves they could make," said Tush Nikollaj, CEO of Logical Net. "If you look at the technology, and what is going on in this area, it's coming back. This is a wise strategic move on their part, without a doubt."
Sawchuk Brown is re-establishing its technology practice at the same time its affiliate, Chicago-based GolinHarris International, is building its own technology practice group in San Francisco.
Brown said that should allow for joint venture opportunities. In 2003, the two firms formed the Nanoscience Public Affairs Practice Group to help create partnerships among businesses, academia and government entities.
"We haven't done much with that," Brown said. "But that also will be revitalized now."
Sawchuk Brown's own public affairs operation is getting a boost along with the technology practice. As Brown sees it, the two go hand-in-hand. Many technology firms seek government funding and contracts.
As part of this effort, the firm earlier this year entered into a relationship with Direct Impact, a public affairs and grassroots marketing firm in Alexandria, Va.
Rooney is one of four people Sawchuk Brown has hired since Jan. 1. Also named vice president was Penny Vavura, former marketing manager for the Albany Institute of History and Art.
Stephanie Bortis, a former news producer at WNYT/Channel 13, was appointed senior account executive and James Allen, a former intern with the Albany office of Sen. Hillary Clinton, is now assistant account executive in the public affairs division.
The firm, which employs about 20 people, ended 2005 with revenue of $2 million, making it the area's largest public relations firm.