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High-Tech Firm Wins State Grant

A small high-tech company on Sunset Hill is teaming with a university professor to produce an advanced testing device for the microelectronics industry.

On Monday, the Quad Group at 1815 S. Lewis was awarded a $30,000 grant from the Washington Technology Center to develop its innovative equipment.

Heading the company is Richard Riegert, a self-described inventor who moved to Spokane eight years ago from Southern California.

A crystal chemist by education, Riegert has been involved in the high-tech industry for years, having started several companies on his own, he said.

“My basic background is in material science,” Riegert said.

The grant money will help pay for the research work of Professor C. Howard Hamilton at Washington State University to develop the technology.

The technology center seeks to promote high-tech development in Washington to create more jobs.

Currently the Quad Group has 10 employees and annual revenues of about $1 million.

The company sells equipment that tests the strength and thickness of paints, adhesives, inks and laminates. The equipment is used in research and development by manufacturers.

Riegert wants to refine the technology to handle coatings as thin as a millionth of an inch or less.

Such equipment would be useful for the manufacturers of computer hard disks. Those disks are covered with an extremely thin layer of hard material to protect the magnetic computer information on the disks.

The newest material being developed is a synthetic diamond coating, he said.

At the same time, laboratory scientists have discovered a “nano-indenter,” which measures the strength and thickness of a few atoms at a time.

Riegert said he wants to turn the nano-indenter from a laboratory curiosity into a practical tool for the high-tech industry.

If successful, Riegert said he could expand his company’s revenue to $4 million or $5 million a year, or more.

State officials visited Riegert’s plant Monday to support his efforts with the $30,000 grant and told him another $100,000 grant may be available if the Quad Group and Hamilton make progress in developing the nano-indenter products.

“It’s real encouraging for a small company like ours,” Riegert said.

A native of New York, Riegert, 69, said he moved to Spokane because he grew tired of Southern California’s constantly nice weather, and he missed winter.

“You don’t even see a beautiful day because every day is beautiful,” he said of California.

His wife, Maria, keeps track of the paperwork, and the two travel together to meet clients and attend industry conferences and trade shows.

Even though he could retire, Riegert said he is still driven by his desire for new discoveries.

“I want to be ahead of the market,” he said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo