Kittitas County has gained the status of a state-recognized Innovation Partnership Zone, and those organizing the effort say much more hard work is now needed to attract renewable energy companies, research firms and new jobs to the county.
A local public-private partnership, called the Central Washington Resource Energy Collaborative, was contacted Tuesday by state officials and informed the county has been officially designated as an Innovation Partnership Zone, or IPZ.
The approval of the collaborative’s application came from the state Department of Commerce, formally the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development.
Goal of the local partnership of university, government, economic development interests and power companies is to recruit renewable-power firms, projects and research to the county and operate a research and business development center, possibly at Bowers Field.
“They said we had a very strong application and were impressed with the quality of partnerships we had built,” said Ron Cridlebaugh, executive director of the Economic Development Group (EDG) of Kittitas County, one of the partner-groups. “Now we need to roll up our sleeves do the hard work to make our goals into reality.”
Other local partners are Kittitas County government, Central Washington University, Puget Sound Energy and the international wind-power development firm of enXco Inc.
In past comments, the local community partners indicated they have committed a total of $1.2 million in financial support and in-kind services during the next three years for the effort.
Gaining the state’s IPZ status helps give the county recognition as an area of emerging research and business in ongoing solar, wind and other renewable and resource-based power development.
The state zones are designed to stimulate industry “clusters of growth” within specific geographic areas, much like a research park, according to the local partnership.
Eleven other IPZs already exist in the state.
The partnership will meet this week to begin refining its goals and business plan, Cridlebaugh said, including specifying what exact areas of renewable energy research and business the partnership wants to cater to.
Cridlebaugh said the partnership is exploring using an existing, secured government loan and a grant to build a second, 10,000-square-foot multi-purpose industrial/business building at Bowers Field and use part of the facility for the renewable energy research and business development center.
He said the struggling economy put a hold on the immediate construction of the building because potential “anchor” business tenants were reluctant to sign leases in the current business climate.
Cridlebaugh said renewable energy firms, currently moving ahead in project development nationally, could be attracted to the facility and the county.
Kittitas County Commissioner Paul Jewell on Tuesday said he was “absolutely thrilled” with this “first, essential yet momentous step” in gaining the IPZ status.
“Our (the partners’) motivation is to plan for a prosperous economic future for the county,” Jewell said. “We are going to take advantage of this and work to attract firms that support renewable energy services and professional research.”
Jewell said the partnership envisions the county becoming “the heartbeat of the Pacific Northwest, and even the nation, for renewable and resource-based energy technology development.”
He said the formation of the partnership and the IPZ approval in the span of about 90 days were “unprecedented” initial steps for the county to bring new, diversified business to the county.
CWU President James Gaudino, in a statement, said gaining IPZ status reflects the commitment of the different partners to work together.
“It’s my hope that (the) project will build on the already strong relationship between our community and the university,” Gaudino wrote. “I offer my congratulations to all involved in the application process, including our county government, business partners, university staff, and community leaders.
“It was a true team effort.”
MIKE JOHNSTON, Daily Record – http://www.kvnews.com/articles/2009/09/30/news/doc4ac3a14a28f05353027250.txt