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04/15/2005 - Connect Northwest Connects

“The future of business is the Innovation Economy -- a force so powerful it will realign the workforce, alter global markets, and enable customers,” says Dr. James Canton, CEO, Institute for Global Futures. As Nicholas Lovrich, director of Government Studies and Services at Washington Sate University pointed out, “the innovators who develop breakthrough technologies and the entrepreneurs who can build companies around them are scarce.” In Spokane, Connect Northwest has stepped into the breach.

Connect Northwest is an INTEC initiative designed to provide the comprehensive business support needed by entrepreneurs, existing companies, and regional researchers to thrive, grow, and create jobs. Modeled after the highly successful CONNECT program at the University of California San Diego, INTEC and its community partners developed this initiative to include specialized business programs designed to address the unique needs of the Inland Northwest’s fledgling innovative businesses.

Connect Northwest’s primary funding is from Spokane County, and its funding is in place through 2005. Other Connect Northwest Sponsors include Avista Corp, SRM Development, LLC., Washington Technology Center, LeMasters & Daniels, PLLC, Cerium Networks, Focus 21, Paine Hamblen Coffin Brooke, & Miller, LLP, Workforce Development Council, City of Liberty Lake, Itronix, OneEighty Networks, SIRTI, Washington Trust Bank, Logicalis, Ascentium, AgentScience, and Microsoft.

Specifically, Connect Northwest focuses on four strategic areas. According to Bill Kalivas, Acting Director, they have developed a network of private sector service providers including accountants, attorneys, angel and Venture Capital investors, serial entrepreneurs, and business development specialists. Using this network, Connect Northwest provides programs and workshops useful to innovation entrepreneurs. Because most businesses need capital for growth and development, Connect Northwest sponsors investor programs and workshops that both inform and create relationships and connections to the investor community. As a conduit to regional resources, Connect Northwest enhances collaboration between the public and private sectors.

The Springboard Program is one of Connect Northwest’s most successful with five graduate companies to date. Springboard was designed to help accelerate the growth of early to mid-stage technology and science companies. This is done by critiquing business plans and evaluating growth strategies. Graduating companies include: A Perfect Web, Blue Water Technologies, IT Lifeline, Maplewood Software, and TriGeo Networks. Subsequently, these companies have attracted nearly $4 million in angel funding and have created forty new jobs in the past year. Three are Terabyte Triangle companies.

Connect Northwest sponsors “Executive Connect” breakfasts. These breakfasts bring together top level CEO’s and executives from regional technology and science based companies. This gives innovation economy leaders the opportunity to meet in a “safe” roundtable environment where they can build collaborative relationships while conferring and exchanging ideas with peers on issues unique to the industry.

Other programs include investor workshops, forums, and events. These are educational and social networking events connecting private equity investors to entrepreneurs. The Delta Angle Group is just one of the private investor groups whom Connect Northwest works with.

Entrepreneur development workshops are presented by Connect Northwest and community partners, and target entrepreneur development and job growth. Connect Northwest works closely with entrepreneurial programs at Eastern Washington University, Gonzaga, and Whitworth. Connect Northwest has also developed a new collaborative relationship with SIRTI.

Connect Northwest hosts quarterly special interest group forums tailored toward specific technology and science sectors in the region. Most recently, they hosted a forum on the Spokane area digital infrastructure. Planned for June is an entrepreneurial resources forum. Forum topics planned for later in 2005 include Investment Capital, and Research, and Technology Transfer. A LaunchPad event is planned for the fall.

To learn more about Connect Northwest, visit www.connectnw.org.

INTEC is a non-profit organization whose mission is to fuel economic growth through innovation, technology, and training. To learn more about INTEC, visit http://www.intec-center.org.

Billie Moreland
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