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SIRTI to trim management

Fri., April 1, 2005

Officials at the Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute are cutting two management positions, saying the state agency needs to focus better on helping area technology companies.

The reduction of two managers is a response to a recent report prepared by Alta Biomedical Group LLC, a Bellevue, Wash.-based consulting firm.

That report, presented to SIRTI’s board last week, said the state-funded institute — in business now for a decade — has a valid economic development mission but must streamline its staff to maximize its impact on the companies it helps.

“The current organizational structure is top-heavy and inefficient,” said the report, prepared by Lynnor B. Stevenson, a managing partner at Alta Biomedical Group.

SIRTI’s new interim executive director, Kim Zentz, agreed with that view and said she’s eliminated the job of director of technology. Liz Wilhite, who holds that $92,500-a-year job, will leave the post in a month, Zentz said.

Zentz said she also agreed to reduce the job of director of external affairs to managerial level, or simply transfer its functions to a third-party contractor.

That switch won’t take place for at least a year so that SIRTI can continue relying on Patrick Jones, who’s the current external affairs director, said Zentz.

Jones works half-time for SIRTI with a salary of $54,800, said Zentz. He also works half-time for Eastern Washington University.

Zentz said she plans to start two national job searches to fill the jobs of director of commercialization and director of finance and operations. The first position pays $100,000 a year, the second $90,000, said Zentz.

Peter Mowery, SIRTI’s commercialization director, will be urged to apply, said Zentz. Scott Simmons, director of finance and operations, will also be encouraged to apply when the second search begins, she added.

The streamlining, she said, will make SIRTI leaner and more responsive to its clients.

“We have a small staff, and we don’t need a lot of supervision of our front-line people to have them be effective,” she said.

Including the executive director, the SIRTI budget covers 24 positions. Three of those are interns; six positions are currently vacant, said Zentz. SIRTI’s budget request to the Legislature for the 2006-2007 biennium proposes a reduction of one position, she said. No action by the legislature on SIRTI’s next budget has occurred.

By eliminating management jobs, Zentz said more resources can be devoted directly to the core mission of finding ways to help tech companies grow.

In addition to providing business advice, SIRTI also leases space in its building to area companies.

Zentz said she also agreed with Stevenson’s suggestion that SIRTI work more with tech firms outside Spokane.

Since she has only been in the job for two weeks, Zentz said she’ll spend several weeks working with board members and staff to help identify other steps to make SIRTI more effective.


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