IRC study shows potential for green tech job growth

By Ryan Wynne

The Innovation Resource Center (IRC) recently completed the first phase of a feasibility study that shows investment in renewable resource technologies will foster job creation in the engineering and manufacturing industries in Whatcom County.

The IRC had planned to build a business accelerator for entrepreneurial engineering and manufacturing companies, and conducted the study to determine how to best bolster jobs in those industries. The study showed that investing in renewable resource technology would do just that, said Diane Kamionka, strategic adviser for the center.

“It is such a huge emerging industry,”  Kamionka said.

State Rep. Jeff Morris, who represents the 40th district and is the co-founder of the Northwest Energy Angel Group, said in a press release that he believe the IRC’s renewable resource technologies accelerator creates the right path to job creation.

“It is essential for our area’s economy to engage in this evolving industry,” Morris said. “One in four jobs is anticipated to be involved with renewable energy in the next two decades.”

Not only is the accelerator expected to create jobs, Kamionka said, it’s an industry that sits well with the intents and passions of people and organizations in the county, including educational institutions, which are already producing graduates with focuses in those industries.

“There is quite a synergy with the programs coming out of Western and the technical college,” Kamionka said.

The accelerator will receive support from business and educational partnership programs. Local educational institutions will be able to broaden their renewable energy and workforce training programs and entrepreneurs will provide internship opportunities for students.

“The opportunity for education and business to partner with innovative start-ups through the Renewable Resource Technologies Accelerator reflects the increasing trend to focus on clean technologies. This effort will provide a means for our area to participate in this primary emerging industry,” said Dr. Arlan Norman, dean of the College of Sciences and Technology at Western Washington University, in a press release.

The business partnership program will serve as the connection to public and private markets. Private businesses will provide entrepreneurs with guidance, assistance with new initiatives, testing options for commercialization and potential funding and assistance with sales and distribution.

“The collaborative efforts of corporations to scale innovation and start-ups to provide sources of innovation provides the genesis for new products and services in the clean tech industry,” Rob Janicki, business partnership program member and CEO of Janicki Energy, said in a press release.

The IRC, which was established by the Northwest Economic Council to connect innovative start-up businesses to resources that will help them thrive in Whatcom County, is now in the process of completing the second phase of its feasibility study. Results from that phase will determine the logistics for the building that will house the start-up businesses. That part of the study should be completed sometime in September, Kamionka said.

The business accelerator will help entrepreneurial companies with products and services focused on the production, transmission, storage and management of renewable energy and sustainable water usage. The IRC is hoping to reduce the time it takes for companies to become self-sustaining by providing them with support services and guidance.

For more information, visit the Northwest Economic Council’s website.

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