Fertile soil for entrepreneurship
The Tri-Cities has long been known as the center of Washington’s agricultural and food processing industry, for the Hanford cleanup project, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and, more recently, as the heart of Washington wine country. We haven’t been known as a hot spot for entrepreneurship. That’s changing, rapidly.
Gov. Jay Inslee visited the Tri-Cities earlier this week. Central to the visit was a meeting with representatives from four participants in this state’s first Economic Gardening initiative, pioneered by the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce. His visit wasn’t just to recognize the innovation demonstrated by the chamber and the participants, but to learn how the data-driven economic development is working because he is, as he told the Herald editorial board, “taking it statewide.”
Economic Gardening helps CEOs of small young companies identify challenges, conduct and validate research, and gives them fundraising tools to grow their business. It’s working.
Carbitex, a carbon fiber technology company born in the garage of CEO Junus Khan in 2012, was one of five company’s in the chamber’s pilot program. In April, Carbitex sold $3 million in equity financing to two California-based firms.
Inslee called Carbitex a “poster child” for an economic development program that focuses on existing businesses, rather than firms that might be convinced to relocate to Washington.
It is also a “poster child” for the Tri-Cities as fertile ground for entrepreneurship. The brain-trust that is associated with the national laboratory and Hanford cleanup, combined with a high quality lifestyle and low cost of living, has sown the seeds for a variety of technology-based and other innovative business startups. The Economic Gardener program will play a key role in the development of a new crop of economic drivers. Some day, our reputation for entrepreneurship may be as well known as those of our traditional economic cornerstones.
Powell to lead Regents
We have often editorialized about the as-of-yet unrealized potential of the Richland campus of the Washington State University system.
We applauded the vision of Chancellor Keith Moo-Young when he took over leadership of the fledgling campus in 2013. He recognized the unique position the campus was in to help the state close the gap between the number of science, technology and engineering graduates that industry needs and the number being produced by our higher education system. The strong partnerships it has with the national lab and Hanford cleanup, and its potential for expansion could be a critical asset to the future of our economy.
We applauded the comments of the new president of the WSU system when he spoke to Tri-Citians about his vision for the development of regional campuses using the unique assets of each.
We are particularly excited about this week’s announcement that Tri-Citian Lura Powell is expected to be named the WSU governing board’s next chairwoman. She’s previously headed up two other statewide boards, the Life Science Discovery Fund, which promotes and supports research in the state, and the redistricting commission that redrew Washington’s state legislative and U.S. congressional districts in 2011-12. She is a retired director of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
The multitude of recreational opportunities afforded us by the Columbia River is one of our greatest assets. By in large, those who actively enjoy the river are good stewards of the resource. But there’s always a few, of the lowest character, who are not. Those few robbed the many of access to Borgans Island, also called Chiawana Island, last week.
The Army Corps of Engineers closed the island to public access. For a second time in two years, the volume of trash, human waste, glass, used diapers and evidence of fire reached a point where the safety of visitors and the health of the river was at risk.
We hope those shameful few responsible for the closure change their ways. We also hope those who see the type of behavior that resulted in the closure will call authorities in the future.