A century ago, when farmers first plowed the Palouse grasslands to plant wheat, they found world-class fertility in that soil.
Today, through the unique interaction of two research-based land-grant universities, the Palouse has become a fertile landscape for innovation and technology transfer. The result is the successful cultivation and growth of dozens of new technology-based companies in the region.
Encouraging and marketing the Palouse as a home for more high-tech businesses is the mission and goal of the Palouse Knowledge Corridor (PKC). WSU and the University of Idaho, in partnership with the Latah and Palouse economic development councils and area businesses, make up the PKC.
“The Palouse Knowledge Corridor is a way of promoting economic growth in Moscow, Pullman and surrounding areas — together, as opposed to independently — to capitalize on opportunities, create alliances and recruit new industry to the region,” said Anna Sherwood, marketing director in WSU marketing communications.
She has volunteered on the PKC organizing committee since spring 2008 and heads the group’s marketing committee. She will lead the effort to finalize a marketing plan that WSU and UI representatives helped create.
PKC organizers have completed the first steps toward establishing an identity for the group with creation of a logo and website (ONLINE @ www.palouseknowledgecorridor.com), and publication of a report in the September issue of Washington CEO magazine. The report will be available through the PKC website.
“This corridor partnership hopefully will result in thoughtful economic development,” Sherwood said. “Together, we can create a diverse, vibrant and sustainable economy, and a nationally recognized place of research and technology transfer with strong universities that attract, recruit and retain faculty and students.”
The vision of PKC organizers, she said, is first to create a sustainable economy that maintains the social foundation of Palouse communities and the natural environment. The second aim is to promote the assets and capital of the region by partnering with the universities, private sector, economic development agencies and government.
There are about 30 high-tech companies in the region that fall into five industry clusters including electronics, biotechnology, environmental services, advanced materials and information services. These sectors segue with the research strengths of WSU and UI.
WSU is enthusiastic about doing sponsored research for which companies hire the university to provide scientific services under contract, said Howard Grimes, vice president for research and dean of the graduate school. Such work further prepares students for the job market, he said.
Margaret Howlett, director of the Latah Economic Development Council, has supported the PKC since it was proposed in 2006 by an economic development consulting firm hired by the City of Moscow.
“The corridor has tremendous potential,” she said. “And it really has been a labor of love. We have no budget, and still the idea is catching on — we had 22 people at our last meeting.”
The next step, she said, is to finalize the marketing plan and then seek funding from member institutions to implement it.