Tech and STEM Leader Award Nominations for 2023 are now open!

Gorge Tech Alliance logoThe GTA is excited to announce that we are now accepting nominations for our annual awards program to recognize outstanding achievement among the Tech Leaders and STEM Educators of the Gorge. Nominations must be submitted by November 20th, 9:00 a.m. to be considered.   The winners will be announced at the GTA’s Winter Party and Awards Ceremony on Dec. 12.   Only complete nomination forms will be considered.  Contact Jason with questions.

Tech Leader Award

Tech Leader of the Year recognizes the outstanding achievement over the last year (Oct 1, 2022 to Sept 30, 2023) on the part of an individual or company that principally provides technology products, services, or support in the Columbia River Gorge. This award will be presented to the nominated tech individual or tech company with the largest positive impact on the tech community in the Columbia River Gorge, as determined by the GTA Board of Directors.

Criteria that will be considered:

  • All technology sectors are eligible, as are sectors not traditionally characterized as technological if the individual/ company has an extraordinary commitment to innovation or using technology.
  • All accomplishments over the past year will be considered, such as successful new product introductions, community involvement, and impacts on industry trends.
  • The individual or company should be recognized as a leader in the Columbia River Gorge and should be in a position to both accept the award and to represent the tech community in the Columbia River Gorge in a positive light for the foreseeable future.
  • Individuals or companies are not required to be GTA members to be eligible.
  • Companies that are nominated must derive the majority of their revenue through provision of products or services that would be considered technology-based. Service providers, even those who provide services to companies in the technology field, are not specifically eligible, unless they have an extraordinary commitment to innovation or using technology.
  • Nominated individuals must work and companies must be headquartered in the five- county Columbia River Gorge or have the majority of their activities or revenue generated from activities (manufacturing, development, etc.) from within the region. A major division or business unit of a company headquartered elsewhere may apply, in which case they will be judged based upon the activities of the local division.

CGCC Skill Center2022 saw no nominations for Tech Leader of the Year.  Our 2021 winner was Columbia Gorge Community College’s Career and Technical Education Department, for pioneering new ways to provide our current and future workforce with the skills it needs for successful employability in industries across the Gorge. The incredible and tireless work from everyone in the department helped make the opening of the Regional Skills Center in Fall 2021 a reality.  Additional Technology Leader of the Year finalists honored were: Nick Anderson from Overwatch Imaging and Mary Kramer from CGCC.

Nominate the GTA’s 2023 Tech Leader of the Year Here!


STEM Education Leader Award

STEM Education Leader of the Year recognizes an individual for outstanding achievement over the last year (Oct 1, 2022 to Sept 30, 2023) for their contributions to the advancement of STEM (science, tech, engineering, and math) education in the Columbia River Gorge.   Nominations should describe (with specifics!) why the person is being nominated for such recognition. This award will be presented to the nominated individual who has made the most transformative impact through the advancement of STEM education in the Columbia River Gorge over the last year, as determined by the GTA’s Board of Directors. The winner will receive $1000 donation to their STEM program.

Criteria that will be considered:

  • The individual should be recognized as a leader in STEM education in the Columbia River Gorge through their/his/her involvement with some facet of STEM education in the Columbia River Gorge. The Gorge covers the five-county area of the GTA (Hood River, Wasco, Sherman, Skamania and Klickitat Counties).
  • The individual should be in a position to accept the award and to represent the STEM education community in the Columbia River Gorge in a positive light for the foreseeable future.
  • Sally Anderson receiving 2022 awardIndividuals are not required to be GTA members to be eligible for nomination.
  • Any Individual who teaches students of all ages and all forms of education (public, private, after-school, etc.) is eligible.


Our 2022 winner was Sally Anderson, Hood River Valley’s Mobile STEM K-5 Educator, who coordinated to bring the STEM Fab Bus to schools throughout the district. 

Nominate the GTA’s 2023 STEM Educator of the Year Here!

Nominations must be received by 9: 00 a.m. on November 20, 2023 to be considered.  The winners will be announced at the GTA’s Winter Party and Awards Ceremony on December 12.  Contact Jason with questions. 

Employee Spotlight: Ryan Smith at Insitu

Ryan SmithOur spotlight series introduces Ryan Smith, Flight Test and Systems Engineering Manager at Insitu.

Ryan’s career grew out of his fascination with UAVs and his belief that uncrewed systems will be the future of aviation. After studying aerospace engineering at Embry Riddle in Prescott, AZ, Ryan worked for Boeing for 17 years. In 2020, he chose to move to the Gorge to work at Insitu as the natural next step in his career, stating “I loved the work I did and the teams I worked with, but I needed a change. I wanted to move to a smaller community and saw an opportunity come up at Insitu. As both a leader in the industry and a subsidiary of Boeing, Insitu was clearly the best opportunity for me.”

When asked to talk about what he appreciates most about Insitu’s company culture, Ryan had positive things to say about the company’s commitment to both community engagement and to the work/life balance for its employees.

“Moving into the area during COVID-19, I wanted to find a way to engage with the community and found the volunteer opportunities that Insitu coordinated to be the perfect way. The opportunities were often open to the whole family and the Boeing donation match went back into the organizations we worked with. My family and I love the outdoors and all the activities in the area. What we weren’t expecting is how amazing this community is. Since our first week here we’ve felt so welcome. I love the Gorge and since moving here, could not imagine myself anywhere else.”

In addition to great opportunities for community engagement, Ryan spoke of the company culture’s commitment to a healthy work/life balance.

“At Insitu, we work hard and we play hard. I think one of the best things the company does is recognize and support the need for a healthy work/life balance. This summer my family and I had the opportunity to spend 17 days running the Grand Canyon section of the Colorado River. Even though this trip took me away from work for 3 weeks with no possible contact, I was fully supported by my team and leadership. The culture of the company encourages trust and support for each other, which is critical in being able to balance the day to day or support the larger opportunities. The team here is great, and I’m happy to be here.”

When asked “What would you like to gain from you and/or your company being members of the GTA?” Ryan replied,

Ryan Smith volunteering at STEM Fair“Before moving to the area, the only company I knew of was Insitu. While I’m just starting to understand the breadth and scope of the GTA, I appreciate that there is an organization supporting STEM and its connection to industry. As it becomes increasingly difficult to attract talent, the growth of local talent who already understand the benefits of living in the gorge can really help the local industry. I am constantly impressed by the amount of talent here in the gorge. It’s great to run into other tech folks at Makerspace and at soccer and at dinner. 

Gorge Tech Alliance logo“Workwise, the GTA offers opportunity for both the collaboration and competition that are needed to help our local industry sector achieve a greatness that one company would not be able to achieve on its own.”

And in keeping with his active appreciation for community and collaboration, Ryan’s answer when asked the question, “Who would you most like to share a meal with and what would you have?” Ryan replied that he would love to have the opportunity to have lunch with Jason Hartmann to learn more about the GTA.

When asked about exciting and innovative projects in his work, Ryan spoke enthusiastically about the Integrator VTOL, which is a UAV that has been developed in collaboration with Hood Tech.  “The vertical takeoff and landing capability increases both the endurance and safety of the Integrator’s flight without sacrificing the max takeoff weight or range. There is a two-stage vertical takeoff and landing – a UAV carries the Integrator to safe altitude for launch and captures it for recovery. This piggy-back cuts out the need to carry the weight of extra batteries and motors, which increases endurance, and the freed-up space that batteries would occupy can be utilized to build in more redundancy features that increase safety.”

Insitu logo

  118 East Columbia River Way  
  Bingen,WA 98605
  Tel: 1-509-493-8600  
  Fax: 1-509-493-8601     

Founded in the Gorge in 1994, Insitu is a company that has aimed to become the gold standard in Group 2 and 3 Uncrewed Autonomous Systems. The company’s focus has been on providing ISR Services, Software and Fully Integrated Systems around the world. Today, the company has grown to approximately 700 employees in various buildings throughout the Gorge.













UAV/UAS Companies in the Columbia Gorge Region Participate in ICAP Launch!

Innovation Cluster Accelerator logoThe ICAP (Innovative Cluster Accelerator Program) Launch program is run by the WA Dept. of Commerce to support the development of industry ecosystems and potential innovation clusters in Washington state, and is designed to support regional and rural economic development.

MCEDD has been awarded a capacity-building grant from WA Dept of Commerce to lead this program for the Uncrewed Aerial Systems/Vehicles (UAS/UAV) industry ecosystem in Klickitat and Skamania Counties, with inclusion of our Oregon Gorge counties/ companies as well. The program will foster learning and implementation of strategies and techniques to drive collaborative action, begin building an innovation cluster strategy, and position the industry’s networks to pursue private and public investment for collaborative projects.

MCEDD will be working closely with the Gorge Tech Alliance, UAV companies and economic development partners from July 2023 through May 2024. Let us know if you’d like to get involved! Learn more about ICAP Launch here.  


November 2023

ICAP Launch Meeting November 2023Local stakeholders in the Gorge’s UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) sector, including representatives from industry, government and academia, met this month to begin working towards the goals of the Gorge’s UAS innovation cluster. Participants engaged in discussions about obstacles to growth and brainstormed innovative ways to collaborate in addressing these challenges. These fruitful conversations have begun building a sense of optimism and momentum for the future, growing from the enhanced cooperation and collaboration opportunities that the ICAP Launch project provides. 

Announcing Our New 2023 GTA Scholarship Recipient!

Our first selection this year, Ximena Santillan, has received a full scholarship award and as a result, the Corwin Hardham Scholarship funds are now available to help another graduating Hood River Valley High School student, Andrea Lachino, to continue with her college education. 

Andrea LachinoAndrea will be the first generation in her family that attends college, and as the child of Mexican immigrants who came to Hood River as orchard workers, she appreciates the opportunities that a college education will open up in her life.

One of Andrea’s teachers describes her as, “a self-starter and a persistent problem solver, with the time management skills, habits of mind and intellectual ability to be a true asset to her future college community.” Andrea is fascinated by the creativity that computer programming offers: “I was intrigued by the fact that coding could accomplish almost anything!” One of her favorite activities in computer science class was making interactive apps because she enjoys their creative nature.

In addition to excellent grades, Andrea has been a wonderful communicator and continues to put herself in leadership roles. She has been voted for by her class and then the whole school, to represent them as an elected position in Student Government for the past three years.

Andrea’s combination of coursework, extracurricular participation and work history shows her intentions and determination to attend college in order to create a better future for herself that will realize her parents’ dreams. The GTA was pleased to select her for the annual Corwin Hardham Memorial Scholarship to fuel her future at Oregon State University and majoring in Computer Science.

Read more about the GTA’s Corwin Hardham Memorial Scholarship here.

GTA Board of Directors Welcomes Two New Members

Gorge Tech Alliance members and sponsors recently had the opportunity to vote for new Board members in an online election. Congratulations and welcome to our two newest Board members: Jaime Mack, CEO/CTO of Zepher Inc. and Rachel McKay, VP of Product Operations at Overwatch Imaging.

  • Jaime has been an active member in the Gorge technical community for many years. She was originally drawn to the Gorge to work in the composites industry, but quickly transitioned to Insitu, becoming one of the first 50 employees. Her career has grown with the Gorge and her businesses: Zepher and Zepher Flight Laboratories. As an engineer turned CTO then CED, Jamie has firsthand experience of the rapid growth, both technically and economically, in our community. She has supported both friends and colleagues in their efforts to grow their own businesses and expand into new markets. As a business owner, she experiences the triumphs and challenges of running a high-tech community in a rural area amid the economic boom/bust times, in addition to the challenges of the COVID pandemic. She volunteers in the community and proudly assists with the MakerSpace in White Salmon. Through grants, she has developed and sustained a non-profit STEM program that incorporates science education and sailing, the Gorge Junior Sailing program.

  • As the VP of Product Operations at Overwatch Imaging, as well as in her prior role as the Chief Systems Engineer at Insitu, Rachel worked to connect, support, and develop our tech community in the Columbia River Gorge. She has exhibited this commitment within the industry through coaching and mentoring employees and co-workers, internationally during speaking events within the Leading Ladies of Aerospace group, as being on the Board for Aviation Women Inspiring the Next Generation (AWING). Locally she volunteers her time as the Chief Science Officer for a STEAM group at Wy’East Middle School and prepared content for the local Gorge Career Challenge last year. Rachel is excited to take a more formal step in supporing the high-tech cluster of the Gorge by serving on the GTA Board.

These two new members will add even more talent and skill to the GTA Board, and we are thrilled to have them on the team. A special thank you to three Executive Committee Board members who are completing two terms this year and have been integral in achieving the goals of our strategic plan: Steve Olson, SightLine Applications, Greg Davis, Overwatch Imaging, and Lori Nelson, Housecall Providers.


GTA Board Nominations Are Now Open

Annual Board Elections are upon us! The regular Board elections will be held the second week of April 2023. Any member or sponsor who has been in good standing with the GTA for at least one year is eligible to apply. GTA members in all fields and positions (including marketing, design, production, and remote workers) are encouraged to apply, especially those identifying as women, identifying as BIPOC, and any others traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields
To be included on the Ballot, please email answering the following questions:
  1. Name
  2. Email
  3. With which GTA member or sponsor are you affiliated?
  4. What is your role in your organization?
  5. Please give a brief (~one paragraph) message to voters explaining who you are and why you would like to serve on the GTA Board.
There are three (3) vacancies coming up this spring due to the two-term limit.  The time commitment required is generally one  1.5 hour Board meeting occurring every other month on Wednesday, from 3 – 4:30pm.  Each term is 3 years, with a two-term limit.
Please reply with interest or questions by 5pm on March 31st.  Nominations will close at 5pm on Monday, April 3, 2023.

Oregon Employee Advancement Grant Opportunity

This funding opportunity, from East Cascade Works, was designed to support your company in both employee retention and recruitment. Employee Advancement and Assistance Grants are for employers within the ten counties EC Works serves, including Hood River, Wasco, Sherman, and Gillam Counties, who are looking for resources to support training and upskilling for their current workforce. EC Works will fund applications (until funds are depleted) that present an opportunity for employers to build and maintain a quality workforce while creating new employment opportunities.

This opportunity will pay particular attention to training that provides current employees an opportunity for advancement and wage gains within their company, as well as those that create opportunities to backfill positions with new employees. Employers are encouraged to partner with their local WorkSource center to identify potential candidates for backfill opportunities.

Click here to learn more and apply for this grant

Mid-Columbia Innovation Hub Survey

Mid-Columbia Economic Development District has partnered with consultants from EcoNorthwest to begin exploring assets of the Gorge to develop an Innovation Hub. The Mid-Columbia region prides itself on having a broad network of support for those starting or growing a business. This study is to help identify any gaps in that system as part of larger Regional Innovation Hub project programming. The larger goal of this study is to foster innovation in the region by helping companies that develop new technologies, products or processes. Understanding what structural barriers exist and what could be done to reduce them will help entrepreneurs spend less time navigating the system and more time building their business. 
This survey will take ten minutes to complete. Results will be used by service providers and their funders to understand how to best serve you and those in your community. Please email with any questions.

Alternative Commuting Options in the Gorge

If you weren’t able to make it to the special Human Resources virtual meeting this month, it doesn’t mean your company has to miss out on the amazing information we shared! We connected with Kim Curley, Commute Options, and Kathy Fitzpatrick, Gorge TransLink Alliance, about alternative commuting options for employees in our region and exciting upcoming subsidy opportunities. Below you will find information about vanpools, carpools, and more that are available (or will soon be available) in our region.

Recruiting and retaining employees can be a challenge, and work satisfaction today plays a big role. That includes the commute, which for many onsite employees has become longer and more costly. Bring your workforce a smarter way to commute with vanpooling. Vanpools let employees (typically 4-15) who live near each other and have longer commutes (about 20+ miles) share the ride to work and the costs. It’s a win-win that makes employee commutes better, serves as a retention and recruitment tool, and helps achieve other business goals.

  • Vanpool – Commute Options – This is an example program that explains the vanpool subsidy in Central Oregon (Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson counties). This is the TYPE of program that will be coming to the gorge later this year through The Link and CAT. 
  • Get There Oregon – Find and share a ride! – Free to anyone over the age of 18 who lives/works in Oregon. Individuals register on the tool and can utilize the trip planning for transit, carpool, and bike/walk trips. You can further engage using Get There by signing up for the Get There Rewards program (for worksites in Oregon) where employees earn rewards for choosing transportation options (TO). 
  • Home – Get There Southwest WA – The service area for this program is still being researched and will be announced soon!

If you’d like more information, you can download this PDF or reach out via email to Kim or Kathy.