BIZTIPS - January 18, 2004

Biz Tips: High Tech Growth Starts Here
January 18, 2004
By Art Hill

Last time I mentioned that Spokane was recently named one of the “seven brightest communities in the world” for their achievements in building and using communication technology. How did they do it? Expensive consultants? Massive subsidies? Silicon Valley employers? No, no, and no.

Ten years ago an unassuming computer science professor from EWU, Dr. Steve Simmons, started promoting what he called the “Terrabyte Triangle.” The idea was to work with the city, county, colleges, communications providers, and local developers to see that every commercial building renovated in the city downtown include high-speed Internet access to the new fiber optic networks being built statewide. One success led to another as school districts connected to colleges, entrepreneurs started e-commerce sales to other countries, and individuals grew companies that have become industry leaders. Itronix (now $140M revenue), Docent ($30M), and GenPrime, international leader in biological agent detection, all started and grew during Spokane’s Terrabyte Triangle development. No one step was epic scale, just the results.

Now let’s look at our region. Think we’re behind the technology power curve? Yes and no. Fact: we have far more to start with than Dr. Simmons did in the early 90’s. Statewide fiber optics? Yes-best available. Facilities? Yes-no need for acres of “shovel ready land” just upgradeable office space. Examples? Plenty - ODS LaGrande, UMESD Pendleton, UNICOM statewide. The list goes on…manufacturers and engineering firms using CAD/CAM, healthcare providers using telemedicine, growers using GIS for precision farming. This isn’t our future it’s our present!

So what’s needed to make our region’s high tech economic engine hum? Education, Incubation, Capital, Facilities, People.

Content © 2004 East Oregonian