November 18, 2015
For more than 25 years, the Inland Northwest Partners (INP), a regional non-profit economic development organization, has recognized deserving individuals and organizations with Hometown Hero Awards for their contributions to the economic growth of communities in the Inland Northwest. The INP honored the 2015 Hometown Award winners at the organization’s annual meeting on Nov. 12, 2015. The Hometown Awards are voted on by INP board members.


Gene Merrell, associate vice president for economic development and chief technology transfer officer at the University of Idaho, was the receipt of the Hall of Fame Award. In his collaborative role at the university, he has made tremendous contributions to the local economies in the region. Merrell oversees the Office of Technology Transfer, which is responsible for the management of the University’s intellectual property portfolio. He serves on the Clearwater Economic Development Association’s Board of Directors, Business Development and Finance Council and its Operations and Finance Council. He is also the university’s representative on the Board of Directors of the American Manufacturers Network and the Palouse Knowledge Corridor.

Prior to joining the university, Merrell was vice president for research of the Process Chemicals and Energy Chemicals subsidiaries of BetzDearborn, Inc. He was with the company for 19 years and is listed as inventor on seven U.S. patents. He received his B.A. in chemistry and physics from Houston Baptist University and Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Washington State University.

The Palouse Knowledge Corridor was recognized for its work helping make area communities more resilient and connecting entrepreneurs to resources to grow and expand jobs. The Palouse Knowledge Corridor was established in 2007 to unify economic development efforts on the Palouse through the collaboration of Washington State University and the University of Idaho, the private sector, economic development agencies and governments in the Cities of Moscow and Pullman, and Whitman and Latah Counties.

The organization promotes creativity and innovation, and works to find solutions to shared challenges, such as workforce development, transportation issues, funding, retaining the companies that grow out of university research, and training entrepreneurs to establish successful businesses. The group’s Fall and Spring Business Showcase events give entrepreneurs a platform to highlight their business ideas to community members and potential investors, and its highly successful annual Be the Entrepreneur Bootcamp offers training and practical experience in establishing successful businesses.

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