March Madness…More Like CleanTech Madness

When you typically think about March Madness, cleantech is probably not the first thought that pops into your head. With that said, March has been an incredible month for the CleanTech Alliance and the clean technology sector in general. We started the month off with a little international travel, hosted an informative breakfast about LED and human centric lighting, hosted a White House briefing, launched an accelerator, and bid adieu to our former Board Chair, Steven Gerritson, as he enters retirement.

Every two years the Globe Series hosts a weeklong conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. The event features round-table discussions, panel presentations, keynote speeches and an exhibition hall with international companies. This year, a Washington State delegation attended the Globe Series conference. The delegation was organized in partnership with the Canadian Consulate with Cheryl Schell and Kelsey Miller pulling out all of the stops. Nearly 50 members of the CleanTech Alliance were present for one-on-one meetings with cleantech executives and two separate panel presentations by CEO Tom Ranken.

The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave the welcoming Keynote. Our delegation, the largest organized group of attendees, had positive feedback for the experience. David Allen, Executive Vice President of  McKinstry noted, “The CleanTech Alliance participation at Globe not only reinforced our leadership position in the cleantech space but also allowed us to connect with countless companies and organizations that will, no doubt lead to business for our members.”

New Alliance member, Jan Keiser of J. Keiser and Associates stated, “I learned that there are a lot of people actively working in the wonderful world of clean technology.  It was a good feeling to see all that work and know that we’re not alone in believing that wild and crazy ideas can actually work. It was a great opportunity and but for the CleanTech Alliance’s encouragement and connections, I would probably not have dared go.”

Globe was only the beginning of the month for CleanTech Alliance. Just as March Madness kicked off, a little madness kicked in at the CleanTech Alliance Offices. Every month the CleanTech Alliance hosts a breakfast at Perkins Coie to explore different facets of the cleantech community. This month, the Breakfast Series event focused on Human-Centric Lighting and explored the potential of LEDs for health, productivity and performance. John Hwang, CEO of PlanLED started with a light-hearted yet informative overview followed by Jonathan Stine of Renton School District and Cody Crawford of Vulcan, Inc discussing their direct experiences utilizing LED in everyday life.

On St. Patrick’s day, we celebrated by taking a field trip to Beta Hatch. Cleantech Open alumni Virginia Emery gave the team a tour of her new facility and even challenged us each to eat mealworms. Both Tom Ranken and Steve Klein, our Board Chair took her up on that challenge.

CEO Tom Ranken then left Alliance staff to hold down the fort and flew to Brooklyn to speak on a panel at the InterSolar Summit USA East. He presented alongside CleanTech Alliance members Curt Kirkeby of Avista Utilities, Russ Weed of UniEnergy Technologies, Daniel Malarkey of 1Energy Systems and Brian Young of the Washington State Department of Commerce. What’s happening in Washington State has lessons that are important nationally, and the panel discussed the Clean Energy Fund and its impact on the PNW and larger energy storage market.

Our Board, Platinum and Gold members were invited to a White House briefing on climate change at K&L Gates. Manson Brown, Assistant Secretary of Commerce addressed the impact of climate change on business. Attendees enjoyed breakfast while asking questions about federal policies on how to mitigate the impact of severe weather on business.

The CleanTech Alliance has always had a vested interest in startups, and yesterday announced the launch of a new business accelerator with Oregon BEST that will assist cleantech startups by leveraging the region's unique clean technology business and research assets. The Cascadia CleanTech Accelerator will tap an extensive regional network of cleantech expertise, organizations and research labs to deliver mentorship, access, curriculum and other forms of support designed specifically for early-stage cleantech startups founded in the Pacific Northwest. Applications for early-stage companies are open until May 15th and details are now available at

And last but definitely not least, Steve Gerritson is throwing in his hat and retiring from the Economic Development Council effective March 31st. Steve served as the Chair of the CleanTech Alliance board from 2013-2015 and has provided countless instances of advice, connections and tremendous support for both the sector and the CleanTech Alliance. Steve has participated in Globe, traveled around the world with Tom to places like India and Hanover Messe, Germany, and served the community with wisdom and compassion that cannot be rivaled. (He’s also been tricked a few times into seeing Tom’s band, The Ranken File perform).  While we will miss having his presence here in the physical Alliance offices, he has assured us that he will be available to consult, mentor and serve on committees. We’re definitely going to hold him to it.

March was quite a month and it’s only going to ramp up from here. With the exception of Tom (don’t get him started on Virginia’s March Madness performance), we haven’t even had time to pay attention to basketball. In April, we will kick the month off at Dorsey and Whitney with a CEO exchange featuring CEO Insights on Startup Success. The Alliance looks forward to returning to Perkins Coie for the April Breakfast Series event, where we’ll explore nuclear. We are working steadily to bring the best CleanTech Showcase yet, and applications to present are open until April 15th.