May 17, 2024
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Local companies relocating to bigger spaces in Goleta


Seek Thermal was getting too big for its britches at its former headquarters just off Calle Real in Goleta, so the company recently sized up to 10,000-plus square feet of space at 111 Castilian Drive.

The company, which makes thermal imaging devices for the consumer market, is effectively doubling its footprint in its move from the Los Carneros Business Park.

The company will share the same building with UC Santa Barbara energy-efficiency spinout Transform and joins the area’s growing tech corridor.

Seek Thermal’s iPhone camera attachment pits the firm in a heated battle, no pun intended, with competitor FLIR Systems to be the leader in the market for such devices.

Seek Thermal’s camera is going head-to-head against the Flir One, a product also conceived and designed in Goleta that wraps around a phone like a case. Flir released its $349 camera in July and it is now sold in Apple stores and online.

Bill Parrish and Tim Fitzgibbons founded what is now Seek Thermal in 2012 with plans to commercialize the technology advances made at Raytheon Vision Systems, coupled with the chip manufacturing prowess of Freescale Semiconductor, the large chipmaking firm spun out of Motorola.

The pair has been involved in some of the most prominent infrared sensor companies in Goleta over several decades, including Indigo Systems, which was sold to Flir in 2004 for $185 million.

There was a legal battle between the pair and Flir as they worked to start their new business. Parrish and Fitzgibbons were eventually awarded a $39 million settlement against Flir.

Robert Acker, CEO and president of Seek Thermal, previously told the Business Times that smartphones have unlocked the huge potential of thermal sensors.

The company’s new office and R&D facility was previously occupied by Isolite Systems. Five years earlier, the building’s owner gutted and remodeled the property.

“The space was quickly leased due to its unique combination of office and production space,” said Greg Bartholomew, broker at Hayes Commercial Group, who represented Seek Thermal in the deal.

The new facility will house Seek Thermal’s expanding product development, marketing, administrative and manufacturing functions.

“Most of the recent office leasing activity in Goleta has been the result of re-sizing and relocation by local companies, rather than new companies entering the market,” Bartholomew said.

“This move by Seek Thermal fits that trend.”

Ranch donated to Cal Poly

A Santa Maria couple has agreed to donate a 450-acre avocado and lemon ranch in southern San Luis Obispo County valued at $11.3 million to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Stuart “Stu” and Jan Bartleson and university officials made the announcement at a press conference held at Bartleson Ranch on Los Berros Road, three miles south of Arroyo Grande.

The donation of a working and income-producing avocado and lemon ranch increases Cal Poly’s agricultural land holdings to more than 10,000 acres, including the 6,000 acres adjacent to the San Luis Obispo campus, and the 3,200-acre Swanton Pacific Ranch and 600-acre Valencia property in Santa Cruz County.

The donation will expand the 11 acres of lemons and 15 acres of avocados already growing on campus.  The new ranch has 104 acres of avocados and 131 acres of lemons.

“The Bartlesons’ generosity will enable longer-term research projects, provide numerous internship opportunities for students and facilitate income-producing industry partnerships for the college,” said Andrew Thulin, dean of the Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences, in a statement.

Stu Bartleson, now in his 90s, originally bought the property in 1985 with plans to develop an 18-hole golf course, hotel and home sites. He planted the first lemon trees to prove the property, formerly a cattle feedlot, had water. After that he never looked back.

“I’m very happy we ran with it and it remained an agriculture development,” he told the Business Times. “We started the conversation with Cal Poly more than a year ago to discuss donating the property and keeping it agricultural land forever.”

In 1958, Bartleson and his business partner, Slim Minor, came to the Santa Maria Valley and developed the first of several housing developments for construction workers and personnel stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base as the area grew. The partners, who formed the Atlantic and Pacific Co., also developed shopping centers and a mobile home park in the area as well as housing subdivisions throughout the state.

“It’s exciting to think about this being kept as ag land and carrying our name in perpetuity,” Bartleson said. “I’m also excited to think that the ranch will help prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s ag industry leaders.”

The Bartlesons and Cal Poly are meeting to discuss the transition of the business and management of the property next week.

• Contact Elijah Brumback at