Inside the McKinstry Innovation Center: A First Look at Seattle’s Big Cleantech Hope

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and deploying some of the most creative energy technologies around. And that could make a difference not just in Seattle, but around the country as well. As a whole, McKinstry has some 1,600 employees, about 400 of whom (including 140 engineers) are in the Seattle office. The company has developed major construction projects for high-profile customers like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Qwest Field, ZymoGenetics, and VMware.

“We want to be a resource for Seattle, outside of this area, and across the nation. Seattle is becoming a place where in energy efficiency, we’re going to find the answers,” Croonquist says. “The image of the Seattle area is we’re all very green, but are [important energy technologies] being produced here? We want to change that.”

Croonquist has been with McKinstry for about a year. The Seattle native was brought in by CEO Dean Allen specifically to manage the innovation center. Before that, she was a marketing and business strategy consultant, and also worked in real estate development and corporate communications.

McKinstry’s innovation goals would seem to include engaging with the local cleantech community, as well as big tech companies like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and Amazon, who all have green initiatives. “All of those groups in Seattle have special project groups who know of startup companies that have great ideas, and they’re interested in furthering green [tech] and energy efficiency,” Croonquist says. “We’d love to partner with them. We’d like to talk to them about supplying the office space, the mentoring and the engineers, and our expertise.”

But McKinstry also has to balance its community relationships with its desire to get things done fast without much bureaucracy. “With the different universities, economic development councils, and all the alliances and associations, we have a lot of relationships, and we’re exploring ways we can work together,” Croonquist says. “We’re excited to move forward, and because we’re private, we hope we can move forward quickly.”

For now, the innovation center’s advisory board is made up solely of executive staff from McKinstry. “As we open our doors and get more firmly established, we’re looking at inviting other people from outside. We’ll be pulling from all sorts of industries for that,” Croonquist says.

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] Follow @gthuang

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