Who We Are
At Urbanova, our purpose is simple: find new ways to make communities better for people. We bring partners together to learn, test and discover how new technologies, integrated data and jointly developed solutions can improve lives. Founded in 2016 by a collaboration between city, university and industry partners, Urbanova started as a smart city initiative to deploy and test new innovative technologies in Spokane's University District. You can read more about our founding story or watch this overview to learn more about our background.
In recent years, our work has focused increasingly on placing the strengths, struggles, opportunities and needs of residents at the center of new ideas on city solutions. We believe that new technologies or emerging innovations can only be effective when these solutions provide benefits to all. Our team is focused on driving place-based and research-informed solutions that measurably improve equity and resilience in communities. Increasingly, our work has centered around efforts that promote health equity, energy independence and connected communities.
build tomorrow together
we bring together civic groups committed to building data-informed, resident-centered solutions that strengthen community connections, improve health equity and treatment access, and support clean, consistent energy alternatives that benefit all
Can-do - we are problem solvers, 'how can we' is our favorite question
Candor - we create shared trust through honesty, integrity and transparency, even (or especially) when differences exist
Collaborative - we enable co-creation to reach outcomes not previously achievable
Curious - we are open to new ideas and fresh perspectives and committed to learning and discovery in every effort
Inclusive - we are a community organization here to embrace differences, empower residents, and work to ensure that all participants in civic innovation projects are equally seen, heard, and welcome
Who We Work With
public sector organizations working to improve resident quality of life
faculty and subject matter experts focusing on community research and solutions
community based groups prioritizing community impact and equitable outcomes
community-minded corporations and utilities building public-private partnerships
Board of Directors
Heather Rosentrater is senior vice president and chief operating officer at Avista Corp., where she’s responsible for overseeing Energy Delivery, Energy Resources and Enterprise Technology. She has led Avista’s Grid Innovation, Smart Grid and Smart City efforts. Heather also has broad experience on both the electric and natural gas sides of Avista Utilities, having managed departments and projects in natural gas supply and electric transmission and distribution, as well as asset management.
Heather is a registered Professional Engineer and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Gonzaga University. She serves on the board of directors for Spokane’s 2nd Harvest and YWCA. In addition, she is a member of Gonzaga University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science Executive Council.
Peter is a partner at Witherspoon Brajcich McPhee, a Spokane-based law firm that emphasizes a talented, nimble, and connected team that provides exceptional accessibility for clients. His practice is more than a professional pursuit, as his guiding hand can be found behind many of Spokane’s most recognized arts, culture, social, charitable, and educational institutions, as well as a long list of its scrappy tech-based startups. Peter has been practicing law for more than 30 years and was recognized as the top lawyer in financial markets and services (Spokane/CDA Living Top Lawyers, 2015 and 2017). In addition to the past chair of Washington State’s Make-A-Wish Foundation, he’s the current chair of the Catholic Foundation and a board member of the Music Conservatory of Sandpoint. Peter holds a BA from Gonzaga University and a J.D. from Gonzaga’s School of Law.
Eric is chief innovation & technology officer (CITO) and cabinet member for the City of Spokane, Washington. He is focused on technology service transformation and innovation, including cyber security, adapting service models for supporting more operational and edge technologies, digital infrastructure in support of urban and economic development, resiliency and continuity of operations, open data and transparency, information security, technology human capital planning, and the evolving role of joint technology leadership in a government organization. Prior to his position with the city, Eric served in the U.S. Army as chief operating officer responsible for planning and operations of a division of over 12,000 personnel. He is an active member of the Army National Guard with 31 years of service. In his civilian technology career, Eric was IT director for a Fortune 500 financial company and principal for a technology and management consulting firm working with hundreds of city and county local government organizations. He also serves on the advisory board for Management Information Systems for Gonzaga University.
Steve Helmbrecht is president and CEO of Treasury4, where he oversees company strategy and business and financial operations. For four years, he was CEO of Lakeside Capital Group, a privately held investment firm. From 2005 to 2014, Steve served as EVP and CFO of Itron, Inc. (NASDAQ: ITRI), a $2.5 billion global solutions provider creating, collecting, and analyzing usage data for electricity, gas, and water. From 1993 to 2000, he was with SS&C Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: SSNC), a leading financial technology company, during which time he spent more than three years in London as SVP International, where he established the company’s international operations. Steve serves on the board of Washington Trust Bank and Gonzaga University’s board of regents. He has a BA in accounting from the University of Washington and a Master of Taxation from the University of Denver.
Bill has led sales and business development activities as Cloud Strategy Advisor for Google Cloud in the Spokane region since 2020. His 30 year career in the technology and innovation sector includes sales and business development activities for clients in commercial, education and local government sectors. He also founded/co-founded several innovation/entrepreneurship groups in the public and private sector including Connect Northwest (2003), ViVo Publications Group (2006) and LaunchPad Inland Northwest (2009).
Prior to Google Cloud, Bill worked for Aruba Networks as a Territory Manager from 2013 to 2020 covering in Eastern WA, No. Idaho and Montana. Bill has held senior sales positions for leading technology companies including Cisco Systems, Williams Communications and Cabletron Systems from 1994 to 2013 in Spokane and Silicon Valley. Bill served in the United States Air Force for 4 years 1983 to 1987 and attended the University of Maryland. Bill serves on the Advisory Board for the Eastern Washington University CSTEM Program.
Brian Kraft is the Assistant Vice President for Innovation and Research Engagement (IREO) within the Office of Research at Washington State University (WSU). In this role, he is focused on building research partnerships with public and private sector interests that serve to translate innovative research at WSU into meaningful societal impacts. Brian has a long track record of building successful collaborations in areas, ranging from research focused on research translation, ranging from the development of student training programs to the implementation of organizational change initiatives. Specific WSU initiatives Kraft is currently leading include: Implementation of the recommendations of the External Review of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, an effort to support and incentivize students and faculty to embrace a culture focused on impacts and outreach; The Entrepreneurial Faculty Ambassadors (EFA) Program, a faculty networking group to disseminate best practices and connect experienced and aspirational faculty focused on public engagement; The WSU I-Corps site, an NSF-funded training focused on helping scientists and engineers evaluate product-market fit; The Small Business Development Center, which represents a statewide network of 30 small business advisors funded by the SBA; The Innovation and Entrepreneurship initiative to better integrate technology focused economic development with undergraduate training in entrepreneurship. He holds undergraduate degrees in Biology and Chemistry, a PhD in Chemistry and has served WSU in roles ranging from technology evaluation to programmatic development over the last sixteen years.
Dan Wadkins serves as a Principal in the Business & Corporate Finance practice group of Foster Garvey, PC in Spokane. Wadkins brings a broad range of corporate, securities and finance, commercial transactions and intellectual property experience to the firm, along with a passion for helping emerging companies navigate the complex business and legal landscape through every stage of the business lifecycle. He is recognized as a leading corporate attorney among emerging startup companies in the Pacific Northwest.
Will Walker is the Founder and Executive Director of Community One Consulting. Since 2008, Dr. Walker has developed strategic initiatives and delivered socially and culturally complex, organizational, employee engagement/training and multi-stakeholder programs and policies designed to support effective incorporation of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices. Through his firm, Community One Consulting, Dr. Walker utilizes multiple methods – research, training, technical assistance, direct engagement with grassroots stakeholders – to foster inclusive, cross-sector partnerships that benefit all communities while reducing disparities. Clients range from grassroots community efforts, public /private partnerships, education stakeholders (redistricting, parent-teacher association) and philanthropic organizations.
Kim Zentz, P.E., is co-founder and served as founding chief executive officer of Urbanova (2016-2021). Her career spans executive, entrepreneurial, and project leadership across utilities, transportation, tech-based economic development, higher education, and clean-tech startup companies. Kim’s leadership positions include CEO of Innovate Washington, CEO of the Spokane Transit Authority, founding president and COO of Avista Labs (now ReliOn/Plug Power) and several executive positions for Avista Utilities. She is also director of urban innovation for Washington State University (WSU) and previously served as director of the engineering and technology management online graduate program for WSU’s College of Engineering and Architecture. Kim has provided leadership in the community on the boards of the University District Development Association, Spokane County United Way, Mobius Science Center, and Greater Spokane Incorporated, among others. She holds a BSCE from the University of Idaho and a Master of Engineering Management from WSU.