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Houston firm picks BTR Park for first expansion in decade

May 1, 2010

KALAMAZOO--A Houston-based analytic software company that counts some of the nation's leading firms among its clients has opened a new office at Western Michigan University's Business Technology and Research Park.

PolyVista is a software solutions company that provides businesses with access to a search engine capable of analyzing data and discerning patterns and issues in a way that goes beyond the scope of normal business intelligence operations. In its first major expansion in a decade, the company will open a business development office in Kalamazoo and will immediately hire and train 10 to 20 young recruits who will become part of a customer interface and business development team.

"Our top priority is finding talent," says PolyVista's Jim Willard, who will lead the Kalamazoo office. "I'll be building a team that can focus on finding new homes for our technology."

PolyVista, which has a close relationship with Microsoft, currently counts among its client list such firms as Hewlett Packard, Southwest Airlines and Trane. Launched in 1995 with technology developed by scientists from the former Soviet Union, the company has put its patented engine to work analyzing data in such areas as trade compliance, reliability, marketing and operations and in such industries as finance, energy, transportation, insurance and manufacturing.

The PolyVista engine, Willard says, can focus on any combination of data--structured or nonstructured--and it can point to data relationships that were not previously defined for analysis.

"What you don't know is in the data is what PolyVista is all about," Willard says. "Sometimes it's not about finding the answers to questions in the data as much as it is about knowing what questions should be asked. Our engine can center on any kind of data and it can read and find meaning in such things as word patterns on blogs and customer comments. We're capable of the same kind of data analysis and text mining that is done for national security reasons, but we're able to do it within the budget constraints most companies can afford."

Southwest Airlines, for instance, uses PolyVista's text and data-mining analysis tools to enhance the analysis capability for data in its pilot reporting program. Trane uses PolyVista tools for early detection of warranty-related issues. The company can then correct them and pass the information on to its engineering and design teams to avoid problems in future products.

The move to Kalamazoo is a strategic move to expand PolyVista's base, says Willard, who is a Michigan native. Although the company was originally focused on expansion in northern Virginia, Michigan proved to be an attractive alternative because of the relatively low cost of doing business in the state and the focus on growth and business outreach. The opportunity to locate in a university community also was high on the company's wish list for expansion.

"Five years ago, this wouldn't have worked for us," Willard says, "but there's been a major culture shift in Michigan and a move away from the legacy thinking that was once dominant. We really like the environment and the entrepreneurial spirit we find here now."

According to Willard, staffing needs for the new operation are his top priority in the coming weeks. The young people he hires, he notes, are likely to be recent grads ready for a career-launching experience. He's looking for graduates particularly in the areas of sales and promotion, marketing and public relations.

"We are looking for talented kids who will be able to interact with very senior level executives and serve as liaisons between those execs and the rest of our company. They’ll be exposed to what is really a high-level consulting business."

"In addition to potentially hiring a number of Western graduates right away, the company is exploring the idea of collaborations with several WMU academic programs, including computer science, engineering and sales and marketing." says Bob Miller, WMU associate vice president for community outreach and BTR Park development pointperson.

PolyVista's Kalamazoo office will be located in the Granite Park I Building, which is located at 4664 Campus Drive in WMU's Business Technology and Research Park. Information about available jobs can be obtained by sending a resume to polyvistajobs@gmail.com. WMU alumni can find more detail on the BroncoJobs website.

WMU's Business Technology and Research Park focuses on the life sciences, advanced engineering and information technology. Information is available at wmich.edu/btr.

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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