The Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce deserves kudos for developing a sharper focus and a clearer vision for the Valley’s future through its BIG 5 Initiative.
Now, the organization should endeavor to keep the strong momentum it has built through its month-long goal-setting exercise and the energized first year of its president, Katherine Morgan. Such work shouldn’t be allowed to sit on a shelf complacently. Rather, it should be put into action as quickly and as thoroughly as is practical.
The BIG 5 Initiative involves some goals that play to some of the Valley business community’s strengths and other ideas that could complement those strengths. One of the goals, meanwhile, looks to address a lingering challenge.
Playing to a Valley strength, the BIG 5 calls for promoting and protecting the outdoors. While not a new concept for a region that promotes itself as “Near Nature, Near Perfect,” the initiative acknowledges the role of the Spokane River, Centennial Trail, and nearby natural areas in creating a high quality of life, an aspect that draws many to the region or compels them to stay.
The BIG 5 also calls for Greater Goods, which promotes the Valley as a leader in high-tech manufacturing. While the West Plains has grabbed headlines in recent years by attracting large aerospace contractors and distribution hubs, the Valley enjoys a rich history in the manufacturing sector as well as the Inland Northwest’s largest business complex, the Spokane Business & Industrial Park. This is a strength of the Valley that could get stronger with a focused effort.
While the Valley doesn’t have a high-profile history as a medical research hub, that niche does appear to be one in which it could make some headway. With the development of the Providence Medical Park in Spokane Valley and the expansion of some specialty practices, Greater Cures is a worthy long-term goal.
Dovetailing well with focuses on both high-tech manufacturing and health care research is the goal of integrating business and education to develop the future workforce. A nimble education system that’s responsive to market demands is essential to keep those sectors vibrant, and many Valley businesses could benefit from efforts to ensure that workforce is trained and ready.
Arguably the biggest challenge for the Valley business community comes from its most abstract goal: building an enterprising identity for the greater Spokane Valley region. The Chamber and its members have put in place practical goals that could improve the business climate. Now, it will be interesting to learn how the organization will tell the collective story—and brand the Valley in the future.
The Valley Chamber has said that about 1,080 people provided input and ideas that helped the organization shape its goals. In addition to inspiring ideas, clearly the organization has been successful in engaging those in the community it serves.
Let’s hope all parties continue that dialogue in an effort to help the business community achieve or maintain those goals. It will be essential in order to maintain the organization’s current forward progress.
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