About

Supporting Innovation

The NW Innovation Resource Center (NWIRC) is an organization that works with entrepreneurs and inventors in Northwest Washington to identify the strategy, tools, and community resources needed to bring their products and business ideas to life. Our role is to assist these innovators in building effective customized business strategies that will help navigate the ups and downs that happen when starting or building a business. We accomplish this in two ways: (1) with our exclusive business toolkit, built with years of experience and know-how; (2) by joining forces with local economic development resources and business leaders to build an expansive community resource network and a Just-In-Time Mentorship™ program that supports even the smallest entrepreneurial innovation.

NWIRC is an equal opportunity employer and provider.

The NWIRC is a 501(c)3 non- profit organization that uses a pay-it forward model that means inventors we help give back in the future to help other inventors. This model enables inventors to use what limited funds they have to get that product made and into the hands of customers. If you’d like to find out more about opportunities to pay-it-forward through our organization, please visit our donate page.

NW Washington Entrepreneurial Innovation Community

The NWIRC is committed to creating economic opportunities and jobs in the Northwest Washington region by building expansive support networks for entrepreneurial innovation. Working together with other business support groups, economic development organizations, business leaders, higher education institutions, and government entities in the five counties of NW Washington, entrepreneurs gain valuable access to the community resources they need to build strong vibrant businesses in the region.

Our Geographic Reach

Our focus is working with entrepreneurs, inventors, and innovators who are building their business within our Economic Innovation Community between Vancouver BC and Seattle WA, including the counties of: Whatcom, Skagit, Island, San Juan, and Snohomish.

map of washington state's northwest corner counties
map of washington state's northwest corner counties

Our Team

DIANE KAMIONKA

DIANE KAMIONKA

Interim Executive Director

Diane has a strong background in general management of both large corporate growth and the entrepreneurial start-up arena. In 1987, she founded Cintech Solutions in Ohio and served as the President & CEO. Since relocating to Washington, Diane has been working to facilitate entrepreneurial activities and support. She facilitated the establishment of the NW Agriculture Business Center to support development of value-add agriculture product businesses in a five county area in northwest Washington and was instrumental in the creation of the NW Innovation Resource Center.

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LARA MERRIAM-SMITH

LARA MERRIAM-SMITH

Program Manager

Lara started out as a Higher Education Geography teacher for 10 years before inventing the product that started her entrepreneurial journey. In 2006, she started her own company based on her product the Bra Barrette, which she took from concept through patenting to a national selling spot on QVC in 2010. Today her company is in a licensing pipeline, so she can focus on educating future entrepreneurs. In 2010, she earned her MBA and began sharing her experience and expertise with other entrepreneurs as a mentor, coach and entrepreneur educator at various colleges throughout the Puget Sound.  Her passion is to provide experiential learning opportunities for entrepreneurs to embrace their innovative ideas and reach new levels of success.

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LISA HEISEY

LISA HEISEY

Market Analysis Specialist

Lisa began her early career in hospital public relations and healthcare marketing/consulting and later expanded her writing and analytical skills at OTR Global (formerly Off the Record Research), an international investment research firm. Applying her training in journalism, Lisa utilized an investigative, source-based approach to analyzing company or product performance with the goal of supplying market intelligence to institutional investors ahead of sales data or company earnings announcements. Over a 16-year period, Lisa investigated or guided market research studies on a wide range of topics, including pharmaceuticals, new drug launches, medical devices, healthcare services, and consumer products.

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DEBBIE AHL

DEBBIE AHL

Chairman of the Board

As the Founder and Managing Partner of Edgewater Advising, Debbie leverages 30 years of experience in strategy development, business growth and corporate leadership on behalf of her clients. An experienced CEO and Board Director, her career has included successful start-ups; leading the growth of Sterling Life Insurance Company to $1 Billion in revenue; four corporate acquisitions and successful integrations.

RAY COLLIVER

RAY COLLIVER

Vice Chairman of the Board

Ray Colliver has retired from his position as the Vice President Design and Construction for Vulcan Inc., Paul Allen’s privately held management company, where he had spent sixteen years delivering a diverse portfolio of commercial, residential, life science, cultural and sports facilities in the United States and in Europe. Ray is now the Principal and Owner of Colliver Construction Management located in Bellingham Washington. Ray was the initiator and co-founder of the Green Sports Alliance in partnership with the NRDC and initiated the design and installation of the largest solar array in the State of Washington. He has guided major energy retrofit projects to deliver energy efficiencies and operational cost savings at commercial, residential and sports team assets whilst at Vulcan.

JEFF KOCHMAN

JEFF KOCHMAN

Treasurer/Secretary

Jeff is responsible for the development and management of a 250 acre mixed use “Urban Village” in Bellingham, commonly known as Barkley Village. Barkley Village includes office, retail, medical, financial, manufacturing and residential projects developed over a twenty-year period. His responsibilities include active involvement in and oversight of planning, development, leasing, sales, property management, financing and construction of existing and new projects.

ROSS CLAWSON

ROSS CLAWSON

Board of Directors

Ross Clawson’s career spans more than 30 years in finance, accounting, operations and strategic leadership for privately held businesses.  Ross held positions at The Homax Group of President, CEO, and CFO, leading a team that drove significant growth.  The Homax Group is a leading manufacturer and multi-channel marketer of branded, specialty products in the hardware, home improvement, mass merchandising, paint, and grocery/drug channels.  Ross excels in sales management, channel development, strategic sourcing, working capital management, financial analysis and accounting operations.  He has a demonstrated ability to provide effective leadership while increasing profitable growth and building enterprise value. Ross earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of California at Berkeley. Ross is a CPA (inactive status).

KEN MARZOCCO

KEN MARZOCCO

Past Chairman

Ken is a Mechanical Engineer who started his career at Gulf Oil. He moved into Project Management and has led conventional and alternative energy as well as, infrastructure projects throughout North and South America. Ken has had bottom line responsibility for a number of profitable companies with revenue up to $400 million per year. He is based in Bellingham where he is active in the local arts and business community having served as Chair of the Pacific Energy Association, President of Mount Baker Theatre, 2009 United Way Campaign Chairman, Rotarian and participant in numerous sporting events.

GRACE BORSARI

GRACE BORSARI

Board of Directors

Grace is Owner and CEO of Altair Advanced Industries Inc. Founded in 1978, AAII is a certified Woman-owned Business Enterprise that produces standby power supplies for the cable TV and communications markets. As a member of the Alpha Group, AAII is a manufacturing organization serving all Alpha Group companies across the US and Canada. Also President: Argus Techologies; Altair Energy; Bravo Electric Vehicles; Alpha Distributors. In addition to involvement with Western Washington University, Grace has extensive flying experience and is a 25-year ski instructor veteran.

BOB BRUNKOW

BOB BRUNKOW

Board of Directors

Bob founded ICOM America in 1971. Icom Inc.’s roots are in designing, engineering, and manufacturing highly advanced, compact solid-state radio equipment for use in the amateur (ham) radio industry. The company’s product line has since expanded to include communications equipment and products based in the marine, avionics, land mobile and wide-band receiver industries. As an active pilot, Bob has served on the board of Seafair in Seattle for over 40 years and is the Past President of the San Juan Pilots Association. He volunteers with Angel Flight and San Juan Eagles for medical transport. Bob graduated with a B.A. from WSU and attended the Seattle University MBA program.  He retired from ICOM in 2011.

JOE SVOBODA

JOE SVOBODA

Board of Directors

Joe has over 35 years of experience in the Oil and Gas Industry, he has worked as an exploration geophysicist/geologist with Chevron and Champlin/Union Pacific Resources.  Since 1998 Joe as been the President/Owner of Freedom Natural Resources, Inc. and is Managing Partner with Rainier Resources, LLC. which have Oil and Gas exploration projects in the Midwest.  He applies emerging technology in the quest for Oil and Gas reserves.  Joe has a proven track record in building and selling Oil and Gas Exploration Companies.   He brings a wealth of experience in analyzing all aspects of opportunities and communicating a clear plan of action.  Joe is interested in seeing innovative ideas develop and entrepreneurship grow in Northwest Washington.

DUFFY COX

DUFFY COX

Board of Directors

Duffy is currently the president of Bon Dente International which specializes in new product development. His specific technical expertise includes food safety, food product development, neutraceuticals and pollution control. Duffy holds over 20 patents including a heat based pasteurization method for in-shell eggs and Ultra Rice, which was recognized with the Tech Award Laureate by the Tech Museum of Innovation as a technology benefiting humanity. In addition to his responsibilities at Bon Dente, Duffy provides consultation to international companies such as Monsanto, Owens-Corning, and Prax Air.

ROD PROCTOR

ROD PROCTOR

Board of Directors

Rod Proctor has over thirty years of experience managing technology companies. He has had leadership positions in product development, manufacturing, business development, sales and marketing. Rod has been the CEO of five technology companies. He is experienced in medical and wireless technologies and has seven patents in wireless data communications. Rod has provided consulting and mentoring to many turn-around situations and startup companies. He has also been on the boards of several non-profit organizations.

I suspect that most of you are like me. Creative, intelligent, you know a good idea when it comes along. And you haven’t the foggiest idea what to do with that idea. My project is still young but I feel it has a strong foundation that would have been lacking without the help of Lara and NWIRC.

~Todd Spalti

NWIRC CAN HELP YOU BRING YOUR BUSINESS IDEAS TO LIFE!