This article first appeared in Journal of Business on September 8, 2022 by Kevin Blocker.

What began as a college project among three classmates at the University of Idaho in 2016 has turned into a company with annual revenue now in the millions.

Tim Ledford, the 28-year-old CEO of Post Falls-based SafeGuard Equipment Inc., is a main driver behind the company’s meteoric rise. SafeGuard now has its utility worker, hardhat clip-on device—named Compass—in 58 countries.

“We have gotten our product in nearly every utility in the nation,” he claims. “But the coolest statistic is we’ve helped save more than 48 lives now.”

The device, which is no bigger than the size of a human hand, has the ability to detect and notify a utility worker of unseen, nearby sources of electrical charges, preventing potential electrocution, he says.

“SafeGuard is one of the fastest-growing startups in the Pacific Northwest, in the 96th percentile (on PitchBook) for growth rate compared to startups across the U.S.,” says Cyndi Donahue, community engagement director of Ignite Northwest, in Ledford’s Rising Stars nomination letter.

In addition to SafeGuard, Donahue notes Ledford is an adviser and mentor to several local startups, including Quantum Star Technology, and a founding member of Inland Northwest Private Equity Group. He also previously sat on Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ subcommittee, WA-05 Tech & Innovation Coalition.

Ledford co-founded the company with Brandon Bledsoe and John Thompson, who remain among SafeGuard’s co-owners. The trio launched its product in August 2018, and the company was profitable by October the same year. All three come from a family of electrical workers.

The Compass device first prevented an electrocution of a utility worker in the field in 2019, claims Ledford.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates more than 200 utility worker electrocution deaths occur annually.

Ledford declines to disclose specific revenue figures but says the company is on track to reach $100 million in annual revenue in as little as five years.

Ledford’s family moved to the Inland Northwest from Seattle in 1997. He graduated from Coeur d’Alene High School before completing an undergraduate degree at University of Idaho.

He accepted a position as an industrial engineer for Boeing Co. after earning a 4.0 GPA in college. He worked on a handful of projects for the company, one of which he says helped the company save $70,000 per week in operating costs, and another saving $50,000 per week, he says.

For those efforts, he was placed in an accelerated leadership program at Boeing. At the same time, he submitted his application to Harvard to complete an MBA.

Ledford accomplished all this while working on SafeGuard with Bledsoe and Thompson, who also had secured full-time employment with other companies out of college.

“I had this crossroads moment of going on with (SafeGuard) or pursuing this incredible opportunity with Boeing,” he says.

Financial commitments from angel investors, which included Avista Foundation, Spokane Angel Alliance, and Cowles Ventures LLC, persuaded the SafeGuard triumvirate to move forward with their collegiate project, Ledford says.

Safeguard currently is operating in 15,000 square feet of space in a series of offices in the Tedder Business Center, at 4454 W. Riverbend, in Post Falls. Ledford says the company has 30 employees and expects to add 10 more by the end of this year.

He says he’s not completely surprised at where the company stands today.

“There were a lot of unknowns when we first started,” he says. “But we had the vision, and we had the skillset.”

Excerpts from a report based on the Milken Institute’s “Best-Performing Cities Index” and data on microbusinesses from the GoDaddy Venture Forward Initiative. Published October 2022. Authors are  Charlotte Kesteven, Abraham Song, PhD, and Caroline Choi.

 

The Milken Institute’s Best-Performing Cities index compares economic activity across 400 large and small cities in the US annually. It ranks cities on measures including jobs growth, wage growth, high-tech GDP, high-tech industry activity, broadband access, and housing affordability.

The analysis divided the cities in the BPC large cities index into four segments: high rank versus low rank (2022) and high change versus low change (from 2021 to 2022). We selected several cities from each quadrant as case studies for further
examination. Cities were selected from those with the greatest change in each quadrant and to ensure a geographic spread across the country. We then cross-tabulated these cities by category with MAI to identify any key similarities and differences in groups. The top-level results for selected cities are shown below.

SPOKANE–SPOKANE VALLEY
Spokane scored well in one-year jobs growth, placing seventh among tier two cities in BPC’s annual index, 34th in one-year high-tech GDP growth, 35th in five-year high-tech GDP growth, and 10th in broadband access.

Despite its composite score of 108.9 in the Microbusiness Activity Index, 7.1 points above the national average, Spokane’s subindex engagement and participation scores were particularly low at 100.8 and 102.0, respectively, compared to its fellow quadrant cities. However, the city’s subindex infrastructure score is 11.1 points above the national average, at 114.1. This demonstrates that the city has the physical and intellectual infrastructure needed to access and use the internet, implying that its already diversified economy can grow stronger with a push toward online microbusiness engagement.

Spokane is Washington’s second-largest city and has seen 9.9 percent population growth over the past
decade.2 Between February 1, 2020, and January 7, 2022, Spokane trailed only Boise City, Idaho, for the metro with the fastest growth in job postings. 3 This growth may reflect the fact that Spokane’s major industries in aerospace, health care, food processing, and clean energy production are all rebounding from pandemic–related interruptions.

Job postings may also be growing to meet service- sector demand from remote workers from bigger metros. Attracted by its quality of life, proximity to nature, and small-town environment, remote workers have flocked to Spokane. This movement, however, creates high housing demand, compounded by a lack of affordable housing options in the area: Affordability
is down more than 7 percent year-over-year, 4 and home-value growth has gone up by 12.9 percent year-over-year.5 Spokane has also seen an increase in tech startup activity. Rover, a Seattle-based pet-sitting company, recently set up a 70-person outpost in Spokane, and the University of Washington’s CoMotion Labs launched an innovation hub in the area.6 Tech job
postings almost doubled from 2020 to 2021,7 part of a burgeoning tech industry in Spokane. Despite this, technology only accounts for 1.4 percent of Greater Spokane’s economy, leaving tremendous room for future tech growth and economic diversification.8

For full report, please click here: Best-Performing-Cities-and-Microbusiness-Activity

 

September 20, 2022 (FAIRFIELD, Wash.)—Inland Northwest Partners (INP) is accepting registrations for the annual regional economic forecast review to be held in Spokane Valley in October. Headlining the event is John W. Mitchell, principal at M&H Economic Consultants, with his keynote presentation titled “Shocks, Mistakes and Replays”. Mitchell shares the stage with economic and community development specialists who will provide timely information on our national and regional economy. The INP Economic Forecast Fall Meeting is Thursday, October 13 from 8:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at CenterPlace Event Center, 2426 N. Discovery Place in Spokane Valley. Cost is $40 for INP members and $60 for non-members. Register at www.inwp.org/events.

Spokane International Airport is the headline sponsor for the fall meeting, which also features Sam Wolkenhauer, Labor Economist with the Idaho Department of Labor, to discuss demographic shifts and transitions occurring in our labor markets; and Grant Forsyth, Senior Economist with Avista Corporation, who will provide regional perspectives on inflation and the impacts on both households and businesses.

“The Inland Northwest Partners continues to provide important and relevant community economic development topics to our Inland Northwest business leaders, elected officials, chambers and economic development professionals,” says Paul Kimmell, Chairman of INP Board of Directors.

“Rob Curley, Executive Editor of the Spokesman Review, is a great addition to our meeting lineup,” adds Kimmell. “Rob’s presentation on the Virtuous Circle — why moments of goodness often create more and more goodness — truly demonstrate Rob’s commitment to positive community building. That’s never a message that gets old.”

INP members meet quarterly to share common economic challenges and solutions within the eastern Washington and northern Idaho region. Topics can include technology, financing community initiatives, forging regional partnerships, civic capacity-building, business expansion and retention strategies, and talent attraction. INP often partners with local chambers or state organizations for value-added training.

For more information about INP meetings or becoming a member, visit inwp.org or email [email protected].

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Inland Northwest Partners (INP) is a non-profit organization focused on enhancing the long-term vitality of a two-state region through its core offering of educational meetings, programs, and seminars. More than 300 business and community leaders from eastern Washington and northern Idaho are members. INP is also part of a regional collaborative known as the Inland Northwest Economic Alliance (INEA), a consortium of fourteen economic development agencies. To learn more, visit inwp.org.

 

Story Contact:

KayDee Gilkey, Executive Director, Inland Northwest Partners

P| (509) 990-6105  E| [email protected]

June 13, 2022 (FAIRFIELD, Wash.)—Inland Northwest Partners (INP) is accepting registrations for a June meeting in Hayden Lake, Idaho. Rural economic development specialist, Jimi Coplen, will share her strategies for creating a spark in small communities.  “Jump Starting Your Community for Success”, is Tuesday, June 28 from 8:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at Hayden Lake Country Club. Cost is $40 for INP members and $60 for non-members. Seating is limited. Register at www.inwp.org/events.

Jimi Coplen has been an economic and community development practitioner for 20 years, serving in small rural communities in Texas. During the pandemic, she launched an online platform, The Rural Spark, as an educational, and networking platform for other rural economic developers.

“My hope is to empower a new generation to lead their communities and lead strong”, says Coplen. “The pandemic created a shift. People are coming back to rural communities. They are buying homes, starting businesses, retiring, putting kids into our schools. Now more than ever, we need strong economic development professionals and programs.”

INP members meet quarterly to share common economic challenges and solutions within the eastern Washington and northern Idaho region. Topics can include technology, financing community initiatives, forging regional partnerships, civic capacity-building, business expansion and retention strategies, and talent attraction. INP often partners with local chambers or state organizations for value-added training.

For more information about INP meetings or becoming a member, visit inwp.org or email [email protected]

************************

 

Inland Northwest Partners (INP) is a non-profit organization focused on enhancing the long-term vitality of a two-state region through its core offering of educational meetings, programs, and seminars. More than 300 business and community leaders from eastern Washington and northern Idaho are members. INP is also part of a regional collaborative known as the Inland Northwest Economic Alliance (INEA), a consortium of fourteen economic development agencies. To learn more, visit inwp.org.

 

 

Story Contact:

KayDee Gilkey, Executive Director, Inland Northwest Partners

P| (509) 990-6105  E| [email protected]

After a two year hiatus, the I-90 Aerospace Corridor Conference & Expo is returning to the Coeur d’Alene Resort in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho on May 31-June 1. This event, the premier aerospace-focused conference in the Inland Northwest, will feature a full line up of great industry speakers, a trade show featuring a wide cross-section of suppliers and service providers, B2B meetings with OEMs and Tier 1 and 2 suppliers, and ample networking opportunities.

To see all the participation options visit the event website.

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