Cut to the Chase – Tacoma's Tech Column – Fridays in the IndexInnovation and Cooperation – Not Just Cheap Rent

“Have you answered this question in the past month, What’s so special about Tacoma?It may be familiar if you’ve talked to reporters writing about Tacoma’s high-tech explosion.National publications are continuing to cover this wired city and asking this question. Seattle newspapers are interested in the inexpensive rent and firms relocating to Tacoma from their community. The New York Times’ story on August 5th focused on the talented work force available locally, the fiber optic network, and the quality of life in Tacoma’s beautiful neighborhoods with little commute to work.All of these qualities entice businesses to move to Tacoma, but local and national reporters have overlooked a very important element in Tacoma’s transformation into a technology destination. Innovation plays a critical role in the high-tech game of survival of the fittest. The industry buries companies that don’t keep their product or service current with the latest technology. In this market innovation and cooperation are more important than inexpensive rent. Exchange of ideas and local partnerships enable businesses in the #1 wired city to create a unified force against competitors. The role the climate of innovation plays in Tacoma’s success story is reflected in the South Sound 2000 conference, the upcoming E-business Day and Chamber of Commerce awards, and the exchange of ideas that occurs at the technology networking forums. While it is a benefit that investor money is stretched because of the inexpensive rent in Tacoma, businesses will be recognized based on innovation and community partnership at up coming events.Rob Greenlee, Director of Marketing for ShopperBox Networks, provides great insight into the six degrees of separation in Tacoma’s climate of innovation. Rob feels Tacoma’s climate is ripe for the exchange of innovative products and business leads. He states, Tacoma has an atmosphere where everyone knows what everyone else is doing from a company standpoint. We bring business to each other and work together.ShopperBox deploys community loyalty in seeking partners to update its product features. In discussing the climate Rob says, We are surrounded by technology companies in Tacoma. That’s the first place I look for new partners. If I can’t find someone to add to our technology here then I go outside the community. ShopperBox is one of the most innovative companies in Tacoma. Perhaps it’s their internal creative openness that has led them to develop a product with virtually no competition. Their product solves a problem plaguing e-commerce, traditional delivery businesses and consumers.The ShopperBox unit enables residents of multifamily complexes to receive deliveries anytime. Multiple trips to attempt delivery are eliminated and 24-hour delivery options are created when a resident is not needed to be present for delivery. These changes to the shipping industry will revolutionize e-commerce. Web stores that couldn’t deliver holiday presents on time will take advantage of the schedule availability of shipping companies. In continually updating the technology of their product, ShopperBox utilizes relationships with local companies to keep up with breaking technology. Rob points to aggressive innovation from companies like Idmicro, Paybycheck.Com and Americall as potential partner opportunities locally. Cutting edge products from finger print identification technology to a Web Site Receptionist are cutting edge additions to the ShopperBox unit available from local partnerships.Ronald Ehli of claims an innovative title, We’re the old time innovators.Although his service is cutting edge, it has been around for three years. The pay by check service enables business-to-business companies to collect payment by check over the Internet with real time authorization. This company offers great partnering and technology sharing opportunities, since 86 percent of business bills are still paid by check. High-tech companies offering business-to-business solutions would place themselves ahead of the competition by adding this feature to their services.ShopperBox, who complimented the innovation of Ehli, also pointed to Idmicro as a leading creator of usable technology in Tacoma. While ShopperBox is interested in Idmicro’s fingerprint identification technology, what interests them most is their Vertical Fleet product that assists local ski resorts competing against neighboring Canadian ski resorts. Vertical Fleet uses wireless data transfer and identification technology to track and calculate the number of vertical feet skied by participating members. Club members accumulate points and redeem them for awards like lift tickets and food.Kevin McCarthy, president and general manager of White Pass Ski Area, says about the partnership with the technology firm, We need cutting edge technology like this to attract more skiers and to continue to stay ahead of the competition.In returning to, What’s so special about Tacoma?, I’d love to point to the quality of life. As a native of mountainless Ohio, the endless skiing opportunities are a benefit.Seriously though, the climate for innovative partnership revealed by ShopperBox, Idmicro and reveal what is truly special.Tacoma’s high-tech businesses will provide stiff competition in the technology marketplace for years to come if businesses continue to exchange ideas and build partnerships at forums like the Tacoma Network and the Tacoma Technology Consortium.Please call or email Jamie Chase at 253-573-1030, or with comments or suggestions for topics.Jamie Chase is vice president of public and investor relations for ContractQuest. Chase is the founder of E-business Day in Tacoma – Thursday, August 24.To learn how to participate in the E-business Day Web Fair community high-tech open house, or the E-wards ceremony, visit the Links section of and click on the E-business Day link. “