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Federal Way stations itself as a leader in the medical industry

Federal Way is creating a reputation for being a leader in the medical devices industry.

In light of dipping revenues, city leaders took a risk in 2009. They partnered with enterpriseSeattle, an economic development services company. Noting the city's vibrant health care industry and realizing health care professionals require medical technology to perform their work, Federal Way pursued a project to self-create a cluster of medical device businesses in the city.

In September, Cascadia MedTech Association, the organization that will foster the cluster's growth, was launched at 33530 1st Way South, Suite 102.

"We're in business," said Bruce Jackson, enterpriseSeattle business manager. "We're fully functional now."

Cascadia is comprised of essentially two business models: A for-profit accelerator and a non-profit association. The goal of both is to attract businesses and jobs to Federal Way.

Fostering growth

The accelerator helps established medical device companies in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana grow their businesses. This can be done by recruiting companies to Federal Way or partnering them with local shipping or manufacturing companies. Cascadia has two clients, one currently based in Spokane and another in Bozeman, Mont.

The association works with individuals, such as doctors, to patent new medical devices. It also performs pre-commercialization to determine if the product could make money on the market. If there appears to be demand for the innovation, Cascadia helps its creator establish a business in Federal Way.

"A significant amount of medical technology innovations, perhaps as much as 50 percent, are never commercialized because, primarily, at point-of-care, no system exists for medical professionals to capture and process their ideas and inventions," according to Cascadia MedTech Association's website.

In July 2009, a feasibility study confirmed Cascadia could fill a niche market in Federal Way. Nurses and physicians at St. Francis Hospital participated in a survey. Six hundred forty-six clinical staff members took the questionnaire and 131 returned the material. Up to 64 percent reported they had ideas for new medical devices, which they felt could be patented. Of those, up to 27 percent showed an interest in taking part in a process to bring their ideas to the forefront of their industry.

"The doctors that are going to invent things are right here," said Jackson in May 2009 when enterpriseSeattle partnered with the city. "Taking advantage of inventions is not a new idea."

Cascadia does not have any association clients yet. Jackson said the company wants to work through the patenting process with a few inventors before accepting them in mass numbers. Once that is completed, a marketing campaign will be instigated.

State help

Existing city seed money and recently awarded state funding will fund the marketing of Cascadia MedTech in early 2011. During the 2010 legislative session, Federal Way was awarded a state matching grant of $91,839. Potential partners, investors, inventors and health care professionals will be made aware of Cascadia's business model. Marketing, branding and public relations will continue throughout the year.

Meanwhile, Federal Way plans to apply to the state for designation as an Innovation Partnership Zone (IPZ). Areas that partner research, workforce training and private-sector participation in close geographic proximity as a means to connect innovative researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, industry associations and training providers may be eligible for IPZ status. The connections must promote new technologies, marketable products, company formation and job creation. There are 12 IPZs in Washington.

IPZ money may be used for infrastructure, telecommunications, equipment, construction or a 10 percent portion of IPZ administration. Individual grants to IPZs ranged from $275,000 to $1 million in 2007, according to an Oct. 26 memo from Patrick Doherty, Federal Way economic development director, to city manager Brian Wilson.

"If the city can secure an IPZ designation from the state, we may qualify for state funding to help us develop the infrastructure to support growth in the medical-device innovation industry," Doherty said in an e-mail Thursday. "The more services and support the city can offer burgeoning companies in this industry, the more likely they will be to locate here and provide jobs in Federal Way."

Seed money

Work toward establishing Cascadia MedTech Association began around May 2009. In July 2009, $75,000 was dedicated to a feasibility study, which determined the demand for medical device innovation and the willingness of Federal Way's health care workforce to partake in an accelerator project.

The city approved expenditures not to exceed $245,000 for the Cascadia MedTech Association in February. That helped Cascadia establish a physical presence and begin doing business. Funding from here on out will come in a traditional matter — from doing business with clients.

"We're making money the old-fashioned way," Jackson said.

Learn more

• www.cascadiamedtech.com

• www.enterpriseseattle.org

Click here to read the January 2010 Mirror report "Medical accelerator can strengthen Federal Way economy."

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