A couple of weeks ago the Bonner County Economic Development Corp. gathered local business and community leaders for a summit at the University of Idaho’s beautiful Organic Agriculture Center in Sandpoint. I was invited to present as a panelist on entrepreneurship, but really all the topics being discussed were of great interest. Our region is in a growth cycle, and while we all want the area to grow, we care a lot about how that growth happens, because we know what makes our area wonderful is a delicate balance and there are long-term effects of decisions being made today.
Workforce development and housing solutions were topics with lively discussions and full rooms. Marc Brinkmeyer, chairman of the Idaho Forest Group, offered an impressive review of how high tech is being applied to the forestry business in a big way, and also how they focus on taking care of their employees as the company grows. IFG is doing such incredible things both domestically and globally, there wasn’t enough time to see it all; Mr. Brinkmeyer absolutely inspired the room.
Living in a small rural town in Idaho has loads of benefits, but it also means we are far from the energy of a larger metro area, and we often feel far from the resources. What I shared, as a participant and witness to 20 years of innovation and entrepreneurship, was only a handful of thoughts: 1) Do what you know. 2) Be self-aware enough to understand if you have what it takes to move from innovation to operations (where many new ventures die on the vine) and plan accordingly. 3) Do something that doesn’t rely only on the local market; use technology to seek out other markets for your product or service. 4) There is no substitute for hard work. I can’t reiterate this last point enough. For every example of successful business in our area, whether IFG, Litehouse Foods, Kochava (and myriad others), there are dedicated hard workers behind it who make things happen day in and day out.
I left this event with a renewed gratitude for the amazing people doing good in our community, and this predominant impression: Our business environment is fertile for innovation and entrepreneurship. From Ryan Arnold, Regional Entrepreneurial Strategy at NIC, I learned about the North Idaho College facility in Coeur d’Alene that has the equipment to prototype just about anything you can think of. From Aaron McMurray, CSO at Innovia Foundation, I heard incredible passion around resources to protect and support the type of flourishing we want to see in our community. From Wally Jacobson of the Panhandle Area Council and Racheal McDonough from MoFi, I learned about financing options for innovators and small businesses in our area. Heck, it made ME want to go start a new business!
If you are an innovator or entrepreneur in Bonner County and you have an idea, get out there and avail yourself of the resources at your disposal. If you are onto something, you’ll find a crowd of supporters eager to help you get it off the ground.
Kimberly Manning is the senior director of brand at Kochava, a Sandpoint-based company that provides attribution, analytics and optimization to mobile advertisers.