As the first year of the five-year Thrive Spokane economic development initiative comes to a close, we have one message for those involved: Keep going.
The effort, led by Greater Spokane Incorporated and supported by scores of others, has made some strides in key areas since its launch last June. The Evergreen Bioscience Innovation Cluster, which the Journal wrote about earlier this month, is a great example of a Thrive initiative that’s making headway, as is LaunchNW, which is taking on the monumental task of providing post-secondary education funding for all children in the region.
Other regional issues being tackled through Thrive include child care, affordable housing, infrastructure improvements, supply-chain resilience, and financial equity.
The Thrive initiative stems from what’s known as a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, or CEDS. Formation of the plan for regional economic development is funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, and GSI and its partners brought in Austin, Texas-based TIP Strategies consulting firm to assist.
Joey Gunning, strategic growth manager at GSI, says the plan has 76 specific strategies, and one year in, 54 of those have been categorized as either “in progress” or “on track.” He says 90 engaged individuals representing 65 different organizations are involved at this stage.
The breadth of involvement is reminiscent of the Momentum economic-development effort of the late 1980s and 1990s. While there are a number of differences, including the significant fundraising that resulted from Momentum, it’s hard not to draw comparisons.
Momentum is largely credited with the development of Spokane’s University District and laying the foundation for the venture-capital system that allows the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to flourish. Broadly, the Momentum effort diluted Spokane’s reliance on a natural resources economy and enabled it to become the more economically diverse regional hub it is today.
Of course, Spokane’s future these days doesn’t look bleak, as it arguably was when business leaders formed Momentum. The region has its challenges, of course, but it isn’t in need of a tectonic shift in the same way it was 35-40 years ago.
Besides, it will be years before we know if the Thrive initiative is considered a success—much less as profoundly impactful as Momentum.
Next month, GSI and its partners are planning an event during which they will highlight some of the specific metrics for the first year of the Thrive initiative. The Austin-based consulting firm will be back in town to provide its analysis.
Gunning says, “Again, we are just scratching the surface of this five-year plan, and we have a lot still to accomplish. But with the continued support and dedication from leaders in our region who are working to achieve equitable economic growth, I am excited to see what’s in store for the next four years.”
Having seen too many promising plans end up on bookshelves, we are eager to see progress on this one, and we are encouraged to see the level of support and participation up to this point. Let’s keep it going.
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