By Isaac Bonnell
More than 200 people, including Gov. Chris Gregoire and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, gathered at the former Georgia-Pacific tissue warehouse on Sept. 28 for the opening of the Technology Development Center (TDC).
The 10,000-square-foot space is a collaboration between the State of Washington, the Port of Bellingham, Western Washington University and Bellingham Technical College. The project is one of the first capital projects to be completed as part of the waterfront redevelopment.
“It’s this kind of collaborative effort that is going to see us out of this recession,” Gregoire said. “Your efforts here make me absolutely confident that we will see it through this recession.”
The project started two years ago when Gregoire designated 11 “Innovation Partnership Zones” around the state. With a focus on marine trades, Bellingham was one of four sites to receive a $1 million state grant to start the project.
“We’ve got the ability to build a marine industry that will be the envy of everyone,” Gregoire said.
Western’s College of Sciences and Technology has already begun working with local boatbuilder All American Marine to design a composite hydrofoil that will help boats create less wake, thus causing less erosion on beaches.
It is projects like these that will help make Bellingham a center for marine-related innovation, said university President Bruce Shepard.
“These projects are great for economic development, but they are also great for students, who gain valuable experience and then take that out into the working world,” Shepard said.
Western is hoping that the space will help garner partnerships with local companies and spur collaborative research projects. For now, Western is using the space for its Vehicle Research Institute and BTC has already started teaching millwright classes there.
BTC President Tom Eckert said he is excited to use the space to develop new marine-related programs.
“The long-term goal for this lab is to develop a program for marine-related skills,” Eckert said, pointing to the need for green propulsion systems and electronics. “It is my fervent hope that this four-county area becomes the place to be for green marine development.”