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43North, ZeptoMetrix are latest to move into crowded Medical Campus

The 43North business competition is moving onto the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and the biotech company ZeptoMetrix is expanding into a third building there, two moves that are part of a scramble by companies and state-funded programs to find space on the crowded downtown campus.

The four officials who operate the 43North contest will move from their offices in the Z80 Labs technology incubator into space in the Medical Campus’ Thomas R. Beecher Jr. Innovation Center by the end of the year, followed soon thereafter by the 11 winning companies.

The project carries an estimated $800,000 price tag, and officials are awaiting final design documents. Construction could begin within the month on the new 43North site, which sits between the main Innovation Center and the co-working space Dig, and the site’s central location was attractive to organizers.

“For us, it’s a great opportunity to get these folks connected into the community so that they can really see what’s happening here – the viability and the vibrance of what’s going on – and give them a reason to want to stay long-term,” said Andrew J. Pulkrabek, 43North’s executive director.

The business competition has whittled 2,600 entrants from around the world down to 113 semifinalists. Judges in late October will pick 11 winners, who will split $5 million in prizes on condition they set up shop in Buffalo for at least one year.

Its move highlights how space is growing scarce on the Medical Campus.

The business plan contest, now located in Z80 Labs on the first floor of The Buffalo News building, initially eyed vacant space in the former SmartPill building, 847 Main St., which the Medical Campus bought earlier this year with $8 million from Empire State Development.

However, because 847 Main already will house the Buffalo Niagara Institute for Advanced Manufacturing Competitiveness for at least the next five years, Medical Campus officials wanted to save the remaining space in the building for a biotech company with expansion plans.

ZeptoMetrix, which already has a biosafety level-3 lab and other offices at 872 Main and 878 Main, is negotiating a lease to take up half of 847 Main and has plans to place 15 to 20 workers there, according to a source familiar with the transaction.

With 847 Main off the table, 43North turned to space in the Innovation Center next to Dig, a co-working venue. Patrick J. Whalen, the campus’ chief operating officer, had sought to bring fledgling manufacturing companies into that space, but he and the campus agreed to make it available to 43North.

Pulkrabek said he doesn’t yet know how many employees from the 43North winners will move into the 10,000-square-foot Innovation Center space starting next year. The space will be constructed to allow maximum flexibility, including the hosting of community forums and other events.

“It’s very fitting that the 43North business competition winners will be located in the Innovation Center. The building is a Buffalo Billion investment, and I look forward to seeing the ideas and jobs that will be generated by these award-winning startups working side by side in this unique space,” said Kenneth Adams, Empire State Development’s president and CEO, in a statement.

With 43North taking the spot next to Dig, Whalen said, he hopes to find space nearby for his manufacturing and prototyping center.

As for Z80 Labs, the technology incubator won’t follow 43North out the door anytime soon. Jordan Levy, a co-managing partner, said Z80 is staying in its space near the First Niagara Center at least through the spring.