When you think of innovation in Idaho, you probably think about Hewlett-Packard and the LaserJet printer, Simplot and frozen french fries and, of course, Micron Technology and the memory chip. Or maybe your mind goes to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory — the country’s leading nuclear research facility. These are global technology giants, crafting innovations that change the world and a legacy that’s changing Idaho.
This state — renowned for years for little more than potatoes and a wonderfully independent streak — now is home to more than 4,800 technology companies employing nearly 50,000 people. While INL, HP, Micron and Simplot remain among the state’s largest employers, Idaho’s innovation economy branches far beyond its proud roots. It’s a tremendous credit, however, to those four organizations that they continue to drive exceptional growth through their own activities and the efforts of those they have touched.
Think about Von Hansen, George Mulhern and Steve Hodges, former HP executives who now lead successful tech companies of their own here in Idaho — Hansen with AlertSense, Mulhern with CradlePoint, and Hodges with M2M Communications.
Beyond the HP-Micron-Simplot extended family, we’re seeing successful entrepreneurs such as Bob Lokken make repeated contributions to the state’s tech success. Bob started WhiteCloud Analytics, a company focused on transforming health care through smart, automated analytics. This is Bob’s second Idaho startup, following his success with ProClarity, which drew the attention of and eventually was purchased by a little company you may have heard of — Microsoft.
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These are the kinds of individuals and companies driving the growth of Idaho’s tech economy — and that growth isn’t slowing down, as the tech sector’s 10-year projected growth rate of 13.7 percent indicates. But whether we look ahead or pause to look back, it’s impossible to be anything but proud of the innovation-driven economic surge throughout the state.
Next month we take one of those rare breaks to reflect on our progress with the sixth annual Idaho Technology Council Hall of Fame featuring the Idaho Innovations Awards. The event honors the men, women and companies who have built this thriving technology ecosystem. Attended by over 900 people last year, this is the largest event that celebrates technology and innovation in Idaho.
This year’s event, to be held Wednesday, Oct. 21, at Boise Centre, promises to be the largest yet and, more significantly, one of several prominent tech events in the state. Think about the intellectual capital invested in the state just in August. Consider:
• The Rocky Mountain Venture Capital Association hosted PITCH Unplugged in Boise, an event designed to connect promising entrepreneurs with venture capital.
• The second annual Intermountain Energy Summit, held in Idaho Falls, attracted speakers and visitors from around the world for sessions focused on clean energy, water and climate change.
• The Think Big Festival in Coeur d’Alene attracted experts from Microsoft, Boeing, Johns Hopkins APL and more to catalyze entrepreneurial discussion around robotics.
That’s a single month for our state — and it shows no signs of slowing down. Here’s to the innovators, entrepreneurs and businesses who are making it possible.