Innovator of the Year

Winner: New Tradition Homes

Chris Helmes, Kelly Helmes and Kirk Helmes, owners

Conducting groundbreaking research to impact green construction techniques

By mid-2006, it was abundantly clear that Clark County’s housing marketplace was oversupplied.

"We said the marketplace was sleeping but New Tradition is going to work through the night, continually improving our product," said owner Kelly Helmes. "We said we would build homes better and less expensively."

That also included building greener in a time when land prices are on the rise.

New Tradition became the only green builder in Clark County, starting by becoming Earth Advantage-certified builders in 2004. And as of May 2006, all of the homes constructed by the company are Energy Star and Earth Advantage certified.

"That also means saving customers money in terms of the livability of our homes," Helmes said. "It means making them more durable and so that they cost less to heat, run the lights and making them healthier."

New Tradition created an internal Building Science Team, which initiated a partnership with Washington State University’s Energy Program.

The alliance is conducting a research study to evaluate overall energy efficiency and indoor air quality of the Energy Star Homes Northwest Program standards by appraising thermal and moisture issues associated with crawlspaces and placing furnaces and ductwork in conditioned zones of the homes.

The four energy-efficient homes New Tradition built for the study, located in Orchards, are anticipated to use 30 percent to 50 percent less energy than homes built to Washington’s energy code standards.

New Tradition, founded by Helmes’ parents Nancy and Alvar Helmes in 1987, has built about 4,000 homes in Clark County.

The company started focusing its attention on green building about four years ago.

"We know it’s a better way to build a home," Helmes said. "We believe customers and other builders who look into it will also discover it is a better way to build a home."

– Megan Patrick

Finalist: Instructional Technologies

James Voorhees, CEO

Annual gross sales in 2001: $138,000

Annual gross sales in 2006: $2 million

Instructional Technologies’ motto is "Risk Management Through World-Class Training."

The company provides a computer based safety training program to commercial driver’s license holders.

It sells training to companies on computers Instructional Technologies owns, and is loaded with curriculum developed by Instructional Technologies.

"Our products – Tread-1, Pro-Tread and eTread – have become the gold standard in training for the commercial trucking industry in a very short period of time," CEO James Voorhees, pictured, said.

The company has 40 lessons, with more being added at a rate of one a month. Its 140 clients include Yellow-Roadway, Schneider National, US Express and Ryder. Instructional Technologies has sold more than 700,000 safety training lessons since 2001.

"A lot of our lessons revolve around the basics of truck driving, such as defensive driving," he said. The industry has about six million truckers with commercial licenses, and Instructional Technologies will sell one million lessons by the end of this summer. It might seem that, despite Instructional Technologies’ growth, the number of truckers who need training is dwindling.

But Voorhees said some drivers re-study the lessons every year – as a way to stay in practice. Trucking companies, he said, view the Tread programs as ways to manage risk. Trucking is an industry with a very small profit margin, around 4 to 5 percent, and Voorhees said companies can’t afford to lose legal cases against their drivers.

"What we sell is risk management," he said.

Instructional Technologies has been in business since 1995 and initially provided computer simulations for drivers. The company still makes products to train new drivers, which now are served by the eTread program, which is provided over the Internet to truck driving schools.

Voorhees said his company has out-paced small business growth projections, by posting a 45 percent increase in revenues between 2004 and 2006.

– Sam Bennett

Finalist: Infinity Internet

Doug Palin, CEO

Gross revenues increase from 2005 to 2006: 77 percent

With a 77 percent increase in revenue year-over-year, Infinity Internet is chasing growth in the right market segments.

"We recently re-branded our business to be more of a business solutions provider, rather than residential solutions," said Doug Palin, pictured, CEO of Infinity Internet. "We have completely taken our product set and re-engineered it to apply to a new market."

While for Internet solutions for residential customers "the price squeeze continues," Palin said his company can profit much more quickly by serving businesses.

Infinity Internet is a regional provider of data and Internet access solutions. The company offers broadband wireless to businesses in Vancouver and Portland and surrounding areas. The company boasts faster Internet speeds than the T1 system commonly used in businesses, and it promises similarly fast upload and download speeds. The company said it can beat the costs of traditional land lines, because it uses roof-mounted dishes that connect to satellites.

Infinity owns a data center in Portland, which gives the company multiple connections to the Internet, back-up power and electronic surveillance. The company said this facility is fully redundant and thus avoids typical failure conditions that cause network downtime.

The 10,000-square-foot data center is climate controlled and has a 750-killowatt generator, as well as front and back seismically braced racks and cabinets. Infinity Internet has doubled its space in the data center, helping drive the 125 percent gain in year-over-year revenues.

Broadband wireless revenues have increased nearly 100 percent year-over-year and Infinity has expanded its Southwest Washington coverage to Ridgefield. As a result, the company has expanded its large business customers base in the area.

"We’ve built a sustainable business strategy, whereby existing business models fund organic growth and new product development," he said.

– Sam Bennett

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