Snohomish County wants to be known as the center of the state when it comes to aerospace and biomedical-devices centers, and recent designations...

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Snohomish County wants to be known as the center of the state when it comes to aerospace and biomedical-devices centers, and recent designations by the governor’s office should help promote that.

Gov. Christine Gregoire recently named two Snohomish County business areas known for their respective industries as “innovation partnership zones.” In Everett, near Paine Field, an area led by Boeing has been named the state’s aerospace zone, while medical researchers and businesses in Bothell will be allowed to market themselves as the only biomedical-device region in the state.

These zones are two of 11 named by the governor last week. Each has a unique focus, with the hope that such a designation will help those areas become more globally competitive.

The idea came up during the 2006 legislative session, when lawmakers wondered whether they could capitalize on areas where existing industry was geographically clustered.

Giving them a name, such as the “aerospace innovation partnership zone,” creates something similar to what business had done within the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina or Torrey Pines in California, state officials said.

“The theory was that we could create these clusters, where until now, they’d happened organically or had been driven by market,” said Julie Anderson, a senior policy adviser at the state Community, Trade and Economic Development office.

Gregoire calls the zones “powerful economic engines to support our regional economies.” She believes, state officials say, that by bringing together educators, business, government and the work force, something special will happen: innovation.

“Put the components together and you ignite invention and get it to the commercial chains quickly,” Anderson said.

The zone designations are good for four years, at which time the state will reevaluate how effective the branding has been. Each area is expected to meet a number of goals specific to the business they are trying to attract or promote.

During that time, the state will provide technical support to increase and improve the industry for which each zone is approved. But the designations also push private and public partners within the zones to the forefront of available state dollars for research, employee recruitment and training — something Anderson says the governor wants to increase in future years.

For Snohomish County’s Workforce Development Council, the designations are a boon to promoting already booming industries.

“We’ll get technical assistance and support from the state,” said Mary Jane Vujovic, director of strategic initiatives for the Workforce Development Council. “This gives us a chance to bring in the economic-development tools to support that continued work. We’re interested in advancing and improving what we’re doing here.”

While the aerospace and biomedical-devices industries are considered mature, not all of the zones are as advanced, Anderson said. Some were created based on ideas, but each already had to have some design on how to make those ideas work.

“The brand and designation is worth something alone,” she said. “For Bothell, it can now claim it’s the center of biomedical-device innovation in Washington, and from a development standpoint, that’s a great tool to have.”

Christopher Schwarzen: 425-745-7813 or