Craig Wilkins has an extensive background in building and developing businesses from the ground floor. His career is a track record of success from the financial industry to fostering wireless technology. In 2009, Craig saw the emerging need for improved battery technology to power a new generation of smart phones and laptops, and put together a team to identify the technology with the greatest potential.
“We gave our research scientists four criteria for selecting the technology we would focus on: low material costs, safety and stability, a resource that would remain readily available as battery technology became more prevalent, and that the resource remain abundantly available in the United States.”
The research team led him to zinc technology that allows for storing the massive volumes of energy generated by wind turbines and other renewable power generation technology. In 2009, Craig and his business partners founded Zinc Air, Inc. to further develop commercial applications for zinc battery technology.
"For me, it’s always been about family. I’ve always known Montana is where I want to be, and I’ve always been looking for a way to get back."
After two years of research and development, Zinc Air opened the doors of their Columbia Falls facility in December, 2011. Their location in the Flathead Valley, less than a half hour from Glacier National Park and surrounded by countless recreational opportunities, is a bonus – The Kalispell region is a world leading technology hub in the electro-chemical plating process required for zinc batteries. The focus of the team is on a specific type of battery technology called a flow battery. This is differentiated from some of the research that was done on Zinc ‘Air’ batteries. To better describe the company core technology, the name was changed in 2014 to ViZn Energy Systems.
“We knew that locating near Kalispell would allow us to leverage a number of resources from existing supply chains and infrastructure to the type of talent we are looking to attract to ViZn. ”
To date, ViZn has raised over $16 million from private investors, and employs 38 people in the Flathead Valley. The prototype developed during their two years of R&D is moving toward commercialization, and Craig is excited about the potential this technology represents in terms of his company’s growth, as well as the evolution of the smart grid.
As a native of Helena, and a graduate of the University of Montana in Missoula, Craig has deep roots in Big Sky Country. On a personal level, he’s most content about having returned to the circle of family and friends he has across the state
“For me, it’s always been about family. I’ve always known Montana is where I want to be, and I’ve always been looking for a way to get back.”