RAIN (Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network) has hired Laura Furgurson to be its Blue Economy Innovation Catalyst — the organization’s first industry-specific catalyst.
Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center and RAIN recently received grant funding through the Economic Development Administration for a joint, three-year project titled “The Oregon Coast Blue Economy: Advancing Marine Technologies and Partnerships Through Rapid-Prototyping and Ecosystem-Building.” The purpose of this project is to develop blue economy tools and technologies to promote a sustainable future contributing to ecological health, thriving communities and economic growth in the developing Oregon Coast Blue Economy sector.
A key milestone to launch this effort was hiring Furgurson, who will work on the coast to help accelerate the growth of marine technologies and build the marine innovation ecosystem. She will host events to help activate a culture of marine innovation, including: educational workshops and panels, pitch events, meet-ups, and marine innovation showcases. She will connect entrepreneurs to the Hatfield iLab, other resources and programs, mentors and investors. Furgurson will also identify and engage blue economy stakeholders, develop an asset map of the Oregon blue economy and foster a strong connection among Oregon’s coastal communities and Hatfield’s iLab.
“I am thrilled to join the RAIN team and support OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in their efforts to build the blue economy on the Oregon coast,” Furgurson said. “This new role fits perfectly with my passion for coaching entrepreneurs and launching start-ups for long-term success. I am excited to help build a stronger coastal economy and bring great jobs to these rural communities, while supporting sustainable oceans.”
Furgurson is a long-time entrepreneur and business coach, having held leadership roles in six start-ups, including both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. She grew up working in her family’s small manufacturing business and launched a full-service market research and branding firm after graduating with a degree in economics and business from Willamette University in Salem. In 2008, she transitioned to business coaching after completing a certification program with the Hudson Institute in Santa Barbara. Her support for small business owners includes leading a peer advisory group for Vistage International.
Furgurson’s role owning and managing a research firm opened up opportunities with her clients, including a founding role in Banfield Pet Hospitals, which is now owned by M&M MARS. She served as the founding executive director of Working Wonders Children’s Museum and Discover Your Forest, a stewardship and conservation education group supporting the U.S. Forest Service. Furgurson has held leadership roles in two other start-ups — a travel app, as well as a pet-matching and veterinary care provider. Before joining RAIN, she was the executive director of both the Waldport and Depoe Bay chambers of commerce. She will continue on a part-time basis leading the Depoe Bay Chamber.
“We are fortunate to have someone with Laura’s diverse experience as our Blue Economy Innovation Catalyst,” said Caroline Cummings, CEO of RAIN. “We know she can hit the ground running, demonstrate inclusivity with coastal partners and stakeholders and achieve the goals outlined in this EDA grant.”
Robert Cowen, director of Hatfield, said, “We look forward to working with Laura and RAIN in our efforts to align innovators and entrepreneurs who can benefit from access to our rapid-prototyping tools and training.”
Anyone wanting to learn more about this project can contact Furgurson at [email protected]