A nonprofit alliance has been formed here with the backing of some of Spokanes biggest high-technology players to grow the high-tech industry in the Spokane Valley and to make it more attractive to out-of-town companies that are looking to relocate.
Executives from several electronics-industry companies here, including Telect Inc., Packet Engines Inc., Johnson Matthey Electronics, and Key Tronic Corp., have joined with representatives from some Spokane-area colleges and universities and MeadowWood Business Park developer Metropolitan Mortgage & Securities Co. to create the alliance. The organization is being called the Spokane Valley High-Technology Council.
The high-tech council plans to promote the growth and development of a highly skilled work force, to build up infrastructure for high-tech companies in the Spokane Valley, and to encourage favorable taxation policies and other legislation, council members say.
I wanted us to be able to look at what would help and what is hurting the high-tech industry here, says Metropolitan President C. Paul Sandifur Jr., who helped found the council.
The councils other main founders include Glenford Griffin, president of Consolidated Electronics Inc.; Jack Oehlke, president and CEO of Key Tronic; Massimo Gallitti, president and CEO of Wang Global Inc., the successor to Olivetti North America; Louis Sims, president and CEO of Output Technology Corp.; Jeffrey Edel, business manager at Johnson Matthey Electronics; Bernard Daines, president and CEO of Packet Engines, and Judi Williams, a founder and executive vice president of Telect.
Northern Technologies Inc. and Micro Enhancement International Inc. also are involved in the council.
There have been rumblings that the council was formed because of discontent with the efforts of other organizations, such as Spokanes two chambers of commerce and the Spokane Area Economic Development Council, to promote the high-tech industry here and to recruit other high-tech companies.
When asked if the council arose from such dissatisfaction, Telects Williams, who is serving as president of the new council, says not from my perspective.
Were not trying to be in competition with the chambers or the EDC. Were trying to look at the things that we can do to be encouraging high-technology type business, she says.
One organization is not going to meet the needs of every business. So, its not because were dissatisfied with anybodys efforts, its just that there are some things that we might want to address that wouldnt make it onto another organizations meeting agenda, Williams says.
Sandifur, like Williams, contends that the group was formed solely to serve the interests of the high-tech companies. It wasnt formed against anything, he says.
I also have heard rumblings from people, saying it isnt our job, but we felt these needs werent being addressed, so lets do it, Sandifur says. Theres no law against it that I know of, he quips.
Liz Cox, spokeswoman for Hewlett-Packard Co.s Spokane division, volunteered that H-P has had minimal involvement with the high-tech council and believes the issues that we face are being handled by the chamber of commerce and the EDC.
Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce President Rich Hadley says he doesnt think theres friction between the chamber and the high-tech council. In fact, Hadley says that he and EDC President Mark Turner are slated to meet with the high-tech council to find out what new services the chamber and EDC could be providing for the industry. He claims he views the relationship between the high-tech council and the chamber as a collaborative one.
There are high-tech councils that are popping up in other places. So, its not unusual to have a council here, Hadley says. Its not unlike any other industry that comes together out of common needs and wants to identify what those needs are and how they can get help in meeting those needs.
He says that once such needs have been identified, the council can come to other organizations, such as the chamber, to get help.
I think its a fairly natural thing, especially as we develop a more dynamic technology center here, Hadley says.
Williams says the reason the council is focusing on the Spokane Valley rather than on greater Spokane is that most of the high-tech companies here are located in the Valley, and its easier for the groups memberssince they tend to be busyto meet close to where they work.The issuesThe new councils corporate secretary, Ann Glynn, who also serves as corporate counsel for Summit Property Development, which oversees Metropolitans commercial real-estate portfolio, says the high-tech group began meeting last year, and the council was formed in January.
Williams says she was motivated to help start the council partly because she wanted high-tech companies here to work more closely with the Spokane areas colleges and universities so graduates of the schools would know there are good technical jobs here.
A lot of people and even the educational community dont understand that we have a number of high-technology companies out here in the Spokane Valley, Williams says. She says that many of those companies dont have the wherewithal to send out recruiters, so we need to be getting the word out that we have jobs here.
Williams says that Telect already has hired 15 interns so far this year as a result of the alliance it has developed with some of the colleges here through the new council. Also, she says the council has formed a subcommittee of representatives from Spokane Falls Community College and the human resource directors at a number of high-tech companies. The subcommittee is intended to inform the college of specific personnel needs of high-tech companies here so the school can tailor courses to meet those needs.
The council also plans to meet with representatives from Spokane-area high schools to get high schools involved with the council, Williams says.
Gonzaga University, Spokanes two community colleges, and the University of Idahos College of Engineering all are a part of the high-tech council. The U of I is proceeding with plans to develop a research park just east of the Washington-Idaho border. Bill Gray, dean of Washington State Universitys Spokane campus, also has attended a couple of the councils meetings, Glynn says.
Williams says the council will promote the development of high-tech infrastructure, such as super high-speed data-transmission lines, so that companies in the Spokane Valley will have cutting-edge technology available to them.
We are trying to build a mass of businesses that would be able to draw from the same resources, she says.
Sandifur adds that as additional high-tech businesses locate or emerge in the Spokane Valley, the high-tech companies already there would benefit because they could use common suppliers and attract a large number of workers to the area.
To increase the Valleys attractiveness to out-of-town high-tech companies, the group plans to encourage legislation that would provide more favorable taxation policies to high-tech businesses.
We want new companies to look at Spokaneespecially the Spokane Valleyas a viable option, Glynn says.
She adds, Theres not a lot of affordable space left in California or even on the West Side. So, high-tech companies are looking at places like Boise. We want them to look at Spokane, which means we need to have land that meets their needs and a work force thats responsive.
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