Kootenai County anticipates steady expansion
Mike McLeanDecember 20th, 2018
Steve Wilson, president and CEO of the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce, says the business community anticipates that Kootenai County will see another year of economic growth in 2019.
“Regionally and in Kootenai County and Coeur d’Alene, we’re seeing continued, solid in-migration of both retirees and those looking for work,” Wilson says.
Kootenai County added 2,000 jobs last year, even though the unemployment rate is at a record low 3 percent, Idaho Department of Labor Show.
Tourism is strong and is expected to remain so, especially as U.S. consumers are seeing growth in disposable income, Wilson asserts. Gas prices that are stable and lower than a year ago likely will fuel an added boost to growth, he says.
Hotel and convention bookings also are strong for the coming year, he says.
Wilson says the Kootenai County economy has become more diversified with strong growth in health care. He says Coeur d’Alene-based Kootenai Health and Post Falls-based Northwest Specialty Hospital and North Idaho Advanced Care hospitals have close to 400 job openings.
“We also have a strong education component trying to feed skills training,” he says, referring to programs at North Idaho College and the Coeur d’Alene campus of Lewis-Clark State College.
The tight labor market is the biggest current concern that could slow growth, Wilson contends.
For example, he says, “Construction is limited somewhat by a labor shortage.”
Shelly Enderud, Post Falls city administrator, says permits for new home starts are up this year in the Post Falls area of west Kootenai County, and a corresponding increase in construction should carry over into 2019, although there’s been some slowdown in sales of existing homes.
“Inventory is extremely low,” Enderud says. “I’ve heard that some people are afraid to put their house on the market because they can’t find another house to live in.”
Commercial development in Post Falls looks to be strong through 2019 and well into 2020, she says.
Atlanta-based United Parcel Service and Warren, Mich.-based Crown Enterprises Inc. are jointly seeking special-use permits to develop, respectively, a distribution center and a truck terminal on two parcels totaling 24 acres at the southeast corner of Beck and Jacklin roads, in the Expo area of west Post Falls.
In north central Post Falls, a 335-acre environmentally friendly technology park is planned at the northwest corner of Prairie Avenue and state Route 41, Enderud says.
The development group, Beyond Green Inc., in which Spokane-based hotelier and commercial developer Jerry Dicker is involved, is looking to recruit midsized companies for tenants, such as software designers, electronic chip manufacturers, data mining and data storage companies, manufacturers, and other tech industry support companies.
Tony Berns, executive director of ignite cda, the city’s urban renewal agency, says a new parking garage opened last month, adding 360 parking spaces downtown. The $7.3 million, four-story structure also is a catalyst for economic development in the downtown core, Berns says.
Redevelopment projects at the Elks Building, at 481 E. Lakeside, and the Wiggett Building, at 117 N. Fourth, were launched in anticipation of the parking facility coming online.
“Those are big wins already. It’s anticipated that other buildings will be repurposed or torn down and new ones developed,” Berns says.
In another project, ignite cda is partnering with the city of Coeur d’Alene to redevelop 47 acres of the former Atlas Mill site on the north bank of the Spokane River, at the west edge of Coeur d’Alene.
“We hope to get some infrastructure and public-space improvements in 2019,” Berns says.