by Pia K. Hansen

High-Tech Boot Camp

SPOKANE -- Technet, also known as the Inland Northwest Technology Alliance, is announcing its Catalyst Awards on Thursday at Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights.

These awards are the nonprofit organization's highest honor, and they go to organizations, companies or people who have demonstrated the greatest commitment and dedication to developing technology in the area.

Technet works to promote education and growth within the high-tech community. Just after the awards, the organization is also kicking off a business boot camp series, which begins on Sept. 7.

At the first boot camp in May, six entrepreneurs had their business plans evaluated and reworked by experts from local colleges, business and investment organizations.

"Our first boot camp helped us take an important step toward bridging the gap between entrepreneurs and investors," says Jeannine Marx, president of Technet. "It was an overwhelming success."

This time around, the boot camp is divided into four phases: the fundamentals (how to get funded and start an enterprise); business plans (how to analyze and critique a plan); financing mechanics (how to find and provide the numbers investors are looking for), and finally, show time (how to pitch the complete package to investors).

Companies can do all four workshops or pick just the ones that apply to their specific situation, after consulting with Technet.

"Entrepreneurs may only get a few minutes to present their business plan to investors," says Hank Artis of SIRTI, Technet's entrepreneurial Development Committee Chair. "Boot camp is designed to help entrepreneurs be prepared for the opportunity."

To RSVP for the Catalyst Awards, on Sept. 5 from 4-7 pm, or to inquire about the boot camps ($50 per session), call: 242-TECH.

Stop the Cracks

SPOKANE -- Have you noticed how early it's getting dark these days? That only means one thing: soon it's going to start getting colder as well. At SNAP -- the Spokane Neighborhood Action Program -- staff at the Housing Improvement Program (HIP) is ready to help winterize the housing of low-income families.

"The program actually runs year-round, but I think it's beginning to hit people's radar screens that it's getting colder and colder," says Kristi Sherlock, administrative services coordinator with SNAP.

Renters or homeowners who make less than 50 percent of the median income in Spokane County can apply for the program. That's no more than $1,942 a month for a family of four.

Last year, HIP helped about 400 families to the tune of more than $1 million. Funding for the program comes from -- among others -- the Department of Energy, State Match Makers and Avista.

"First we come out and do a conservation education visit," says Sherlock. "We also look at the house structurally." Fluorescent bulbs, weather stripping and rope caulk are some of the supplies qualified applicants receive.

"On the second visit, we look to see what things can be done to the home. Can we do attic, wall or floor insulation? Or heating system repair," says Sherlock. "Finally, we either use our own crews or contract out the work that needs to be done." All services and supplies are free.

HIP's weatherization program applies to multi-family homes as well, if half of the occupants are low-income.

Once the free supplies are handed out, Sherlock and the staff in her office follow up with the participant.

To get more information about SNAP's weatherization program, leave a message at (509) 744-3370 ext. 350

Protect the Wilderness

SPOKANE -- On a sunny Tuesday afternoon this week, members and volunteers of the Wild Washington Campaign (WWC) handed more than 7,000 signatures to Congressman George Nethercutt and to senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, asking for their help in the protection of Eastern Washington wilderness areas.

"We have been everywhere in the region talking with folks about wilderness, including in Pullman, the Spokane Valley and Colville," says Dick Slagle, Kettle Range Conservation Group volunteer and a long-time Republic resident. "People have been really positive to our efforts to protect a few key wilderness areas."

The WWC is trying to preserve several hundred thousand acres of wilderness on public land, including parts of the Kettle Range, the Salmo-Priest Wilderness Additions and the Quartzite roadless area near Chewelah.

-- news briefs by Pia K. Hansen

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