Spokane Journal of Business

Benefits of leadership 30 years ago evident today

Projects that got their start with Momentum ’87 now having significant impact

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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.

I have been a subscriber to the Journal of Business since my early days with Inland Imaging. In 1986, I was 30 years old and had just completed my first year as CEO at Inland Imaging. Our new imaging center on South Cowley Street was struggling to stay open and I had to use all the tools I was taught at Gonzaga’s Graduate School of Business and leverage all of the knowledge shared in the pages of the Journal to help Inland’s radiologists and employees keep the company afloat. 

Since Inland Imaging opened its first imaging center, it has grown from six radiologists and 25 employees to over 60 radiologists and 500 employees, thanks to the growth of the Spokane area and its position as a major medical referral center for the 1 million people who live within a 100-mile radius of our city. 

Our community’s health delivery system continues to evolve through health care consolidation as health systems bring more physicians into their organizations. The purchase of Rockwood Clinic by Community Health Systems in 2010 and Providence’s formation of the Providence Medical Group, each with 300 to 400 providers, are prime examples of this trend. As our national health care costs pass the $3 trillion mark, Spokane has an excellent opportunity to be a model for healthy communities in the future.

It was also in 1986 that a group of local business leaders—Paul Redmond of Washington Water Power (now Avista), Bill Cowles of Cowles Publishing, Mike Murphy of Central Pre-Mix and Dave Clack of Old National Bank—got together to raise money to make investments in the long-term future of Spokane. It became known as Momentum ’87, and I had the opportunity to work on the audit committee that made sure the money raised was being spent effectively. 

You may recognize some of the projects that had their beginnings because of Momentum funding, like the planning for the Riverpoint campus, where a health sciences education system has grown to include not one but two medical schools (Inland Imaging also moved its business services/IT arm there). The Economic Development Council, now part of Greater Spokane Incorporated, has been responsible for bringing a number of new companies to the community. Momentum helped to establish Spokane’s first community venture capital fund to invest in regional companies. But Momentum’s most important contribution was to create a new sense of leadership and vision that the community had not seen since Expo 74.

Over the past 30 years, the Spokane market has grown by almost 30 percent from 355,000 to just over 485,000. We went from a town that was known as a nice place to raise a family to a place that, while still family friendly, now includes opportunities for people in their 20s and 30s to stay and grow a career or start a new company, while still being surrounded by tremendous natural beauty and lifestyle opportunities. Tom Simpson, who grew up in Spokane, came home in the 1990s to run the regional venture capital fund that was started by Momentum. Simpson has since started a funding activity for small local companies that supports many young entrepreneurs trying to create the next American Sign & Indicator Corp.  Spokane’s place for a younger generation came about through the tremendous growth of our higher-education institutions, including Community Colleges of Spokane, Whitworth University, Gonzaga University and branch campuses of Eastern Washington and Washington State universities, which exposed more talented young people to our area. Part of Gonzaga’s growth has been attributed to its basketball program, which has sent a team to the NCAA Tournament every year since 1998.

I have been proud to see our community support projects such as the beautiful restoration of the Davenport Hotel in 2007, the redevelopment of River Park Square in 1999, the renovation and expansion of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (which includes one of the largest collections of Native American art in the world), the recent approval to renovate Riverfront Park, the construction of new YMCA/YWCAs in the Valley and on North Monroe, neighborhood renovations throughout Spokane and Spokane Valley, the continuous extension of the Centennial Trail that now stretches over 60 miles, and the build-out of the Riverpoint campus. 

Even though there have been many excellent community improvements over the years, we still have much work to do in lifting Spokane’s average household income, as it still lags behind the state and national averages.

The main observation I draw from the last 30 years in Spokane is that we stand on the shoulders of others who made long-term investments in our community. As we enjoy what Spokane has become, we have a responsibility as current and future leaders to honor our predecessors by helping Spokane become even more successful for all those who have chosen to live here.

Steve Duvoisin is CEO of Inland Imaging LLC and Integra Imaging PS.

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