Spokane Journal of Business

Commentary

12/21/2017

The Journal’s View: Wishing for growth, innovation in 2018

As 2017 comes to a close, we look back with gratitude at a year in which the Inland Northwest economy experienced growth in jobs, retail sales, and home prices and benefitted from a host of other positive trends.

We—and many others, as is evident in the Economic Forecast published in this edition—are optimistic that the current momentum will carry forward through 2018.

But with Christmas days away, we offer a list of wishes for the Spokane business community—and the community as a whole—in the new year. Similar to a child’s list for Santa, we might not get everything we’d like to receive. With hard work and focus, however, many of these hopes will become reality. 

• Creative solutions to labor shortages. Employers in Spokane County have added jobs at a brisk clip in recent years. Washington state Employment Security Department regional economist Doug Tweedy estimates a net gain of 5,000 jobs next year, following similar growth this year. Years of job growth coupled with a growing number of retirements among baby boomers have many companies across a number of industries scrambling to find skilled workers. We’re encouraged by innovative efforts such as the medical assistant apprenticeship program started by Providence Medical Group. May the new year bring more fresh approaches to bringing on the next generation of the workforce.

• A fully-funded state capital budget. The Washington state Legislature failed to pass a capital budget during the last legislative session, leaving many projects in limbo, including a number of large school projects. Our elected officials will be doing a tremendous disservice to their constituents if they don’t pass the capital budget and get those projects back on track.

• Healthy gains in home sales. Home sales through the Spokane Multiple Listing Service increased by 8 percent through the first 11 months of this year. Median sale prices rose at roughly the same rate. Transactions and median prices are expected to rise again next year at a moderate pace. While Spokane isn’t seeing the increases in values that the Seattle area has experienced, the home market doesn’t appear to be headed toward the bubble that burst with the financial crisis of the late 2000s. We’ll take the sustained moderate growth.

• Startup momentum. Working collaboratively in many instances, a number of organizations have created a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in Spokane. In the coming year, our hope is that more startups become stable companies and consistent employers. With etailz, Stay Alfred, and a handful of others, the maturing ecosystem has its success stories. The new year would be a good time to ask ourselves how we can do a better job of helping that ecosystem grow. 

• Continued progress at Riverfront Park. The renovation of the city’s crown jewel has had its share of disappointments and controversies during the past couple of years. The successful opening of the new Ice Ribbon in the park, however, has brought renewed exuberance to the massive, complex project. Like the Ice Ribbon, let’s hope the rebuilt carrousel building, the pavilion renovation, and other enhancements exceed expectations.