After graduating from North Central High School in 1974, Ken Wilkinson went to work for his father performing commercial refrigeration service and installations. He took refrigeration courses at Spokane Community College. After an injury to his wrist, Ken was told he would never be able to use tools again. He then enrolled at Spokane Falls Community College to start his engineering prerequisites, before transferring to Eastern Washington University to continue his education in engineering.
After successful rehabilitation, he challenged the journeymen refrigeration union test, passing it in 1979. As a certified journeyman refrigeration technician at the age of 23, Ken worked until 1988 for a local commercial refrigeration company.
In 1988, Ken Wilkinson started his own company, Northwest Refrigeration, and used his engineering and technician skills to develop the company in all aspects of refrigeration, including freezer design, engineering, service, production and manufacturing of custom refrigeration equipment, leading to the company being listed as a UL (Underwriter Laboratories) manufacturer.
The company grew from 2 employees to 23, and became heavily involved in the design of freezers for blood plasma centers. Northwest Refrigeration worked exclusively with three of the largest blood plasma companies in the world and has been instrumental in developing industry standards in the process of freezing blood plasma, for which Ken was awarded a patent.
Including his patent for a pressurized air chamber in the main freezer for flash freezing blood plasma in 2004, Ken received three patents in the field. In 2001, he patented a design for a solar reflective heat pump, and in 2003 he patented a design for a heat pump with supplemental heat.
Throughout his career, Ken Wilkinson raised four sons, all of whom worked with his company. Through them, he has been actively involved in coaching youth sports, including basketball, football, baseball, and soccer.