As our community evolves, our core values remain
Native son and prominent CEO is proud of ‘where we’ve come, where we’re going’February 11th, 2016
Publisher’s Note: This is one of a collection of stories authored by business and civic leaders in Spokane in commemoration of the Journal’s 30th Anniversary in February 2016. Please click here or on the “Anniversary Issue” tag at the bottom of this story to read the others.
The Inland Empire—that’s how we referred to our region 40 years ago. At that time, our community was basking in the glow of success after Expo 74 brought the world to our door.
Heading into the 1980s, Eastern Washington and North Idaho—renamed the Inland Northwest—were still heavily dependent on natural resources for our economic health. Then the national and regional economies went into a nosedive. A generation of leaders stepped up to revitalize our civic and economic vitality. The foundation laid through Momentum ’87 by leaders such as Paul Redmond, Dave Clack, Bill Cowles and Mike Murphy created a framework that is still serving us well today. It is the bedrock upon which my generation took on today’s challenges and from which a new generation of leaders will step up to the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow.
There are fewer corporate headquarters in the Inland Northwest today than 30 years ago. With mergers and acquisitions, many of the major companies that were the financial and philanthropic backbone of our region have disappeared. And those companies that remain are increasingly the “go to” institutions to support important economic and philanthropic initiatives. It’s great now to see that others are stepping up to be important sources of support. Together with growing volunteerism from company employees, individuals and families throughout the region, we will continue to enhance the quality of life for which this region is well known.
Following the energy crisis in the 1970s, we all had a sharper focus on energy independence. Avista—then named Washington Water Power—produced power solely from hydroelectric sources in the late 1970s. But as the use of personal and business technology grew, we explored new ways to meet demand efficiently and cost-effectively. The company undertook a major construction project for the first time since the 1950s, building the innovative Kettle Falls Generating project in northeast Washington. Completed in 1983, it was the first plant built in the U.S. solely to use renewable biomass to create power. Today, it is an important part of our diverse power generation portfolio.
One of the more common reasons for moving to the Inland Northwest is to enjoy the beauty and recreation offered by the lakes, rivers and mountains so close by. Perhaps it’s the draw of the spirit of pioneers who ventured out West to find a new way of life and explore the wilderness. We’ve all built an even greater respect for the natural beauty that surrounds us—think about the Spokane River and the falls that each spring roar through our downtown with a power that awes even the most worldly among us. Over the years, we’ve held dear the natural wonders around us and increased our commitment to our outdoor resources -— new bicycle lanes, hiking trails and access to the River through Huntington Park, for example.
Over the course of the last 30 years, our region’s educational resources have provided a growing number of excellent opportunities for students of all ages to attain the tools they need to pursue careers and engage in lifelong learning. Today, with the advent of two medical schools, the jobs that underpin the research, teaching and professional services coming to fruition are revitalizing and diversifying our economy. There is still much work to do to ensure the success of both schools and to provide the opportunities for training and research both programs require. But, I believe that working together we can make that happen.
As a native son of Spokane—Westview Elementary, Shadle Park High and Gonzaga University—I know this community. I’m proud of where we’ve been and where we’re going. Our community has always been resilient. We are a city that knows how to “take the hill.” We are a place whose citizens actively engage with challenges and work for win-win solutions. We’ve seen this time and again—in the revitalization of downtown, the creation of world-renowned events such as Bloomsday and Hoopfest, the support for and cooperation with community assets like Fairchild Air Force Base and more. We’ve built a strong network of nonprofit agencies to provide a vital safety net of services for those who need, and we support the work of those agencies through donations to United Way, Project Share, SNAP, Salvation Army and Catholic Charities, among others.
Each generation of residents in the Inland Northwest has been called to build on the opportunities and challenges of the previous generation, gaining strength from the lessons learned. Our community, and indeed our region, moves forward at the speed of value. Not for the sake of change, but for the value that change can bring to our lives and those of generations to follow.
Those who will lead are being groomed through sustainable programs, including Leadership Spokane and the En-trepreneurship Centers being developed in Eastern Washington. Those who will participate are the vast majority of us who volunteer through our churches, schools and service programs, who step up to serve on boards and commissions, and who simply care for a neighbor or an elder in need. This is what has made the Inland Northwest great and will continue to make this a great place to work, live and play for generations to come.
Scott Morris is chairman, president and CEO of Spokane-based Avista Corp .