By Jeffrey Osborn
Northwest Asian Weekly
Kelly Ogilvie, CEO of Blue Marble Energy, has worked with local communities and events and has an illustrious history of working with high profile people, including taking an early role in Gary Locke’s re-election campaign for governor of Washington in 1999 and 2000. For these reasons and numerous others, Kelly Ogilvie is being honored at the Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation’s Annual Asian Americans Pioneers in Social Entrepreneurship Awards Dinner.
Ogilvie was born and raised in Seattle to Sandra Ogilvie, of Japanese descent, and Alan Ogilvie, of mixed Filipino, German, French, and Spanish descent. The name Ogilvie itself is of Scottish origin, but it was passed down through several generations. Technically, the name itself is no actual reflection of his bloodline. Kelly describes maintaining the name as “a legacy thing.”
In his early years, Ogilvie attended O’Dea High School and Seattle University. During his time at Seattle University, he took part in a program called the Matteo Ricci College.
“It’s sort of like a running start for Seattle University. Basically, it’s a specialized program that focuses on two core degrees. There’s a core in humanities and there’s another core of your choosing. So through the program, you finish with two degrees in four years.”
It’s an experience that Oglivie speaks highly of and credits for helping him get to where he is today.
“My particular focus was in humanities and international business. It was a great experience. I think being able to couple that type of ethical sort of training, as far as learning about these things and also business, kind of led me to where I am today and how this business (Blue Marble Energy) is going about what it’s doing.”
Ogilvie started his career in his late teens at a nonprofit organization called Wapi Community Services, formerly known as WAPIFASA. WAPI Community Services works with youth in the Asian and Pacific Islander community in and around King County to help them deal with drug and substance abuse issues.
“What we did was we focused on drug prevention. We didn’t say ‘don’t do drugs because they’re bad.’ Instead, we said ‘don’t do drugs because we’re going to do something else. We’re going to take you somewhere.’ So as an organization, we focused on hip hop culture because that was the culture that our particular focus, which was Asian families and Asian kids in high school, were listening to. So we focused our program on hip hop and breakdance culture, and it was a tremendous success.”
Because of the innovative program that Ogilvie helped to create, WAPI Community Services won an award from the governor’s [office].
Ogilvie’s early focus on the local community as well as the program’s success led to the opportunity to work in Olympia with Gary Locke. It was an opportunity Ogilvie couldn’t resist.
“Growing up, you don’t see a lot of people on TV that are in roles of leadership that are Asian American, but Gary Locke, he was our county executive and was running for governor. I wanted to be a part of that, I wanted to learn more about that, and it inspired me to get involved.”
This change wasn’t solely based on the projects at WAPI Community Services, although Ogilvie credits Ruth Woo for helping him get to Olympia.
“She took me under her wing, and she gave me this opportunity by connecting me with some people in Olympia.”
It was in Olympia that Ogilvie met someone who would become a close friend and business partner — Colby Underwood. Colby was working for Gary Locke’s re-election campaign as a fund raising and finance intern.
“[Kelly] was very dynamic, very vivacious, very forward thinking, and the one thing I always really appreciated about Kelly is his want to give back to the community. It’s something that I think drives him every day of his life, and it’s something that I realized from the get go,” said Underwood.
After Ogilvie finished his work in Olympia, he moved back to Seattle and worked directly with Greg Nickels during his 2001 campaign for mayor of Seattle. The experiences of working with both Gary Locke and Greg Nickels helped to shape Ogilvie’s future.
“I owe a lot to Greg Nickels and Gary Locke. Those two are great mentors of mine.”
After working with Greg Nickels, Ogilvie moved on to working in the private sector with Vulcan. Eventually, he left his position there to work with the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. While working for both of these organizations, Ogilvie was working on his own company called Blue Marble Energy.
“In 2006, I quit the chamber and started Blue Marble full time, and here we are today.”
Blue Marble Energy’s website states the company’s mission is to displace petroleum products with carbon-neutral, renewable substitutes from organic biomass feed stocks. Initially, one of the major goals of Blue Marble Energy was to create fuel from organic mass, with a focus on algae.
“The idea was to take things like algae and to produce fuels like ethanol or biodiesel.”
This proved more difficult than initially assumed by Blue Marble Energy.
“A couple years ago, we realized that making fuel is very difficult to do because there are a lot of considerations on algae. Number one, it’s relatively expensive to grow with a man-made system. Number two, the cost of producing fuels from the biomass is relatively high compared to oil currently. Number three, we can make chemicals that are much more valuable than the fuels at this point.”
Blue Marble has switched their primary focus from energy to bio-materials. Thus, Ogilvie and Blue Marble Energy have created a subsidiary called Blue Marble Bio-materials.
“We’re focusing on taking not just algae biomass, but a lot of other types of biomass and converting that biomass by feeding it to bacteria, and the bacteria manufacture chemicals that go into things like food flavoring, fragrances, plastics, animal feed, a variety of chemicals.”
Colby Underwood, who had worked with Ogilvie in Olympia and also during some private contracting, signed on to Blue Marble as Vice President of Business Development and has been consistently impressed with Ogilvie’s leadership abilities.
“Kelly takes a real democratic approach to being the CEO of Blue Marble, and he treats his staff accordingly. Everyone has a voice; he is not a dictator. He very much wants to hear everybody’s opinion and view and before we push any sort of project or any type of plan or idea out. He always wants to gather feedback from the entire staff. He believes in being all inclusive and not exclusive at all.”
Blue Marble has grown recently while focusing on this new form of bio-material engineering. On Aug. 25, Blue Marble held a grand opening ceremony for a new bio-refinery in Missoula, Mont. This bio-refinery will initially process three different feed stocks: spent grains, coffee grounds, and algae. The bio-refinery is also processing wood bio-materials from fallen trees and similar bio-materials. However, Ogilvie is looking toward the future.
“We have a lot of opportunities for scaling. Our plan is to grow in the next 18 months and have a facility that is 10 times larger than the one that we have in Missoula.”
It’s not surprising that Ogilvie entered into renewable sources of materials and energy. Underwood believes much of that drive is Ogilvie’s urge to give back to his community.
“[The thing] that really strikes me about Kelly and his role at Blue Marble is something I spoke about earlier, and that’s his drive to really give back to the community and that is something that really drives Blue Marble into the mission statement, and it’s something I hear him talking about every day as we’re working together.” (end)
For more information or to buy tickets to Northwest Asian Weekly’s Asian American Pioneers Awards Gala, visit pioneers.nwasianweeklyfoundation.org.
Jeffrey Osborn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.