Regional Voices: Bill Savitz – Ignite Northwest
William “Bill” Savitz is CEO of Ignite Northwest, a nonprofit foundation that aids emerging tech companies through its business accelerator education and access to capital.
Deep roots: My best memory of growing up here are the lifelong friendships I’ve made with people who share the same interests. And as a cyclist, golfer and devoted skier, I’m always happy for company.
Prior to joining Ignite Northwest in 2014: I was the CEO and a partner in Garco Building Systems until we sold. After that, I oversaw business development and government affairs for Garco Construction.
Evolving mission: When I arrived at what is now Ignite Northwest, we were Innovate Washington, a public-private entity and former state agency. When the state component ended, we rebranded our private foundation side to Ignite Northwest. As the only accelerator in the area, our purpose is to help companies that are past the incubation phase move into a position where they can attract investment and grow.
Current focus: As the new Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine ramps up its educational and research platforms, opportunities for commercialization based in research will arise. Our role is to nurture these startups they as mature and spin out of the university system, and also work with tech startups coming from other sources in the broader community.
Other career opportunities in Spokane: In my former role as a steel fabricator and building manufacturer, we offered opportunities ranging from shop laborers, welders, fitters and metal benders to drafters, engineers and marketers, as well as accounting and executive positions. So there are plenty of good-paying jobs in local industry. Another area that is really providing opportunities is healthcare and life sciences – particular with WSU’s College of Medicine coming on line.
Getting our act together: The past ten years has seen tremendous growth downtown, particularly in the University District. Yet as recently as two years ago, the entrepreneurial community here was still somewhat disjointed. Today we have all the elements necessary for startup businesses to grow and mature.
Spokane’s assets: We have excellent restaurants, sports teams, community events like Bloomsday and Hoopfest, cultural elements like the Spokane Symphony and live theater – virtually anything you could want in any urban environment. And our natural environment is as good as it gets. Where else can you leave your office and ten minutes later be on the river in a whitewater raft or on a great mountain bike trail?
Community goals: We’re unlikely to become a tech-Mecca like the Silicon Valley or (Seattle’s) South Lake Union, but we can certainly be a smaller-scale innovation center. I would love to see the University District and surrounding areas develop into technology parks where innovative companies want to set up shop.
Other businesses that would fit well here: Aerospace suppliers, manufacturers and any other companies with warehouse operations that demand convenient freight logistics. Also, any businesses that rely on life science research should definitely consider us.
What Bill shows out-of-town visitors: I like to bring them from the airport directly downtown to Riverfront Park, and watch their expression when they first hear the roar of Spokane Falls, especially during spring runoff.