Spokane Journal of Business

Near Nature, Near Perfect, economically stable

Couple representing next generation look ahead with optimism

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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.

As we reflect upon the last 30 years of the Journal of Business and the greater Spokane business climate, an old Tim McGraw song, “My Next Thirty Years,” comes to mind. The song begins: “I think I’ll take a moment, celebrate my age. The ending of an era and the turning of a page. Now it’s time to focus in on where I go from here. Lord have mercy on my next thirty years.” 

This song comes to mind because at times, when we reminisce about the past, it’s important to learn from what we did well, and not so well, and to use that to help focus on where we go from here. So how do we build upon the business growth we’ve enjoyed and the initiatives we’ve taken to make this the region of choice? Leadership is a key component, so we take comfort in the recent historic re-election of Mayor Condon. Our 2020 plan for a safer, smarter, stronger regional economy and making us the region of choice is a good road map to guide us. 

We think back upon what attracted us to the Spokane area as young professionals five years ago. Our plan was to continue to grow professionally and to expand our family. In our search, we considered quality of life and employment opportunities as top criteria for our city of choice. As we considered Spokane and the job opportunities before us, moving here seemed a no-brainer. The cost of living in Spokane is reasonable compared to Seattle or our hometown of Denver. 

Employment opportunities are robust here, and this is reflected by the fact that the unemployment rate in this region statistically tracks the overall economy and isn’t subject to job losses substantially greater than the national trend. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the past eight years, the unemployment rate in the Spokane area has been somewhat consistent with the national average.  This data speaks to the business climate and the strength of the Spokane-area economy.

In terms of the quality of life criteria of our relocation search, Spokane’s “Near Nature. Near Perfect.” slogan truly captures what living in Spokane is all about. Spokane literally has it all, from the symphony, to countless eateries, farmer’s markets, shops, ski areas, and a robust and lively downtown.

When it comes to the business climate in Spokane, we know that it takes top talent to sell other top talent on relocating to our area. Washington State University Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown says it best when she says our region is on the verge of a renaissance. We wholeheartedly agree, particularly with the new medical school—a recent major win for our area—and all the positive externalities that accompany such a giant accomplishment. The establishment of the medical school will help to add economic growth and vitality to our area.

These major wins can only come from strong relationships, both business and personal. Spokane does relationships very well, something we see as evident in the ongoing mentorship from the old guard to the new guard. Manny has been at Numerica Credit Union for three years now, and has been blessed to have solid mentors at Numerica like COO Jennifer Lehn and CEO Carla Altepeter. He also has a wonderful Rotary Club 21 family that has taken him under its wings and provided solid direction and mentorship. Vange has been an assistant professor of economics at Whitworth University for five years and has enjoyed the support and mentorship of both Whitworth and the Spokane community. We are both pleasantly surprised by the many opportunities Spokane has for community service. We are both heavily involved in the community and get tremendous pleasure from doing our part to make Spokane a better place to live.

We have a solid outlook for the next 30 years in our region. According to Greater Spokane Incorporated, Spokane’s employment growth last year was nearly double the national rate and the total payroll increase here was more than 3 percent for the second year in a row. Several companies relocated or expanded here, and the 2016 recruitment pipeline is strong. There have been solid capital improvement and beautification projects, including the city “gateway” initiatives, and multiple collaborative projects, such as the medical school and new vascular ICU at Sacred Heart Medical Center. The economic and quality of life outlook is going to be very strong for the next 30 years. We will continue to evolve as a solid service-based economy while continuing to have very robust industry sectors as well.

In closing, we have come from a solid 30-year era and the next one will be even stronger because Spokane and our region has a rich history of working together and has leaders who take pride in mentoring the next generation. The beauty in our region lies within the closing of McGraw’s song, in that we live in an amazing place that allows us time to, “Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear.” And that, folks, is Spokane’s special sauce!

Manuel “Manny” Hochheimer is an assistant vice president at Numerica Credit Union and Dr. Vange Ocasio Hochheimer is an assistant professor of economics at Whitworth University.

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