For Immediate Release: January 25, 2000
Seattle – Spokane, Wash. companies engaged in product development can benefit from the funding and technical assistance of Washington Technology Center (WTC). The state-sponsored organization helps companies with R&D in two ways, (1) by linking them with the resources and expertise of Washington’s universities, and (2) providing up to $200,000 in funding per research project. Though WTC is located in Seattle, its focus is statewide. Since 1993, the WTC has partnered with 18 Spokane companies, investing over $1 million in product R&D.
A few examples of Spokane companies that have received funding from WTC include:
— Argo Technical Publishing has teamed with Steve Simmons of Eastern Washington University’s Computer Science Dept. to develop a voice-activated computer system that provides instant access to complex information upon command.
— Packet Engines teamed with Jonathon Liu of Washington State University’s Electrical Engineering Dept. to devise methods to increase performance for broadband gigabit networks.
— New Light Industries worked with Jerry Parker of EWU’s Chemistry Dept. to further the development of New Light’s hologram technology.
Spokane Bat Manufacturer Hits the Sweet Spot with National Retailer
Brett Brothers Bats, a small Spokane start-up, recently landed an agreement with Big 5 Sporting Goods to carry their innovative wood laminated baseball bats in stores throughout the western U.S. The company owes much of their success to a research partnership with the Washington State University Wood Materials and Engineering Lab (WMEL) and funding by Washington Technology Center.
Brett Brothers was incorporated in 1997 with one mission — to create a new generation of wood baseball bats. These bats would be more durable, with less breakage than traditional wood bats. Best of all, these new laminated bats would bring the cost of replacing bats down enough so that schools, little leagues, and collegiate leagues could get back to playing the game the way it was meant to be played.
Washington Technology Center (WTC) contributed $110,000 toward a joint-research project between WSU’s Wood Materials Engineering Laboratory (WMEL) and Brett Bros. Bats to conduct stress testing and analysis of the bats.
The research led to improvements in the design and manufacturing of the bats. WSU’s involvement also lent creditability to the company’s product claims. Brett Bros. refers to their partnership with WSU WMEL in their marketing materials, saying the bat has been “scientifically proven to be 20% more durable than conventional wood bats”.
Business is growing and promises to really take off due to some recent developments. The NCAA has changed the specifications for baseball bats used by NCAA member schools such that metal bats will have to perform like wood bats. This ruling, which will go into effect January 1, 2000, requires that bat manufacturers submit their bats for certification. Brett Bros. has already been approved by the NCAA, and expects demand for their competitively priced, more durable bats to rise sharply. Brett Bros. bats have also been approved by the Major League Baseball Association for rookie league play and for practice in the major leagues. Sales have already gone up from 4,000 bats in 1997 to more than 25,000 in 1999. The company anticipates producing more than 100,000 bats in the year 2000 to meet the demand.
According to Emanuele Portolease, vice-president of Brett Bros., “We wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for WSU and Washington Technology Center.”
WTC-Sponsored Projects Bring Results
WTC recently completed a survey of 148 companies who participated on projects during the period of July 1, 1995-June 30, 1999 to determine the impact WTC projects have had on their bottom line. The companies forecast that their WTC projects will lead to the creation of more than 1500 new jobs and generate $196 million in sales over the next five years. WTC currently partners with approximately 40 companies per year, and has plans to increase that number over the next few years. Small companies in particular benefit from the interaction with WTC. Nearly 60 percent of companies that participate on WTC projects have fewer than 10 employees.
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