Spokane Journal of Business

Kootenai County expects steady, slower growth

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Look for economic growth to continue in Kootenai County, although at a slower overall pace than in the last two or three years, sources there say.

Alivia Metts, Post Falls-based regional labor economist for the Idaho Department of Labor, says she expects 1 to 2 percent job growth in Kootenai County in 2015, following annual growth of up to 4 percent in recent years.

The October unemployment rate for the county was 3.9 percent.

“The unemployment rate is stabilizing,” Metts says. “I don’t know how much lower it can go.”

Metts says Kootenai Health, which is expanding its main hospital in Coeur d’Alene, and other health care employers in Kootenai County also expect solid growth in 2015.

Manufacturing jobs also likely will continue to increase, despite the recent announcement that Kimball Office Inc., a furniture manufacturing company, will move its Post Falls operations to Indiana during the next two years, Metts says. Kimball currently employs about 260 people at its Post Falls plant.

“There’s been quite a bit of growth in the manufacturing sector over the last year that will definitely offset the losses from Kimball,” Metts says.

Post Falls Mayor Ron Jacobson says he’s hopeful that a new user of the 475,000-square-foot Kimball plant will be identified before the company turns out the lights in west Post Falls.

Meantime, he says Advanced Thermoplastic Composites Inc. plans to move to Post Falls from Spokane Valley, bringing with it 70 jobs.

As earlier reported in the Journal, ATC’s $4.9 million plant currently under construction near the Kimball facility will have room to grow up by at least 50 employees, which will qualify it for Idaho tax incentives tied to job creation.

Since ATC announced its planned move, representatives of other companies considering moving to Post Falls have inquired about tax incentives and community development block grants, Jacobson says.

The $15 million Greensferry overpass, which is scheduled to be completed in fall 2015, will provide additional connectivity in an area between central and east Post Falls that Interstate 90 currently bisects. “Hopefully it will spur additional business activity,” Jacobson says.

Steve Wilson, president and CEO of the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce, says he’s expecting to see some growth in the tourism industry next year. 

“I would hope the tourism industry can get off to a better start in 2015,” says Wilson, who has a background in the hospitality sector of the industry.

As for this year, the tourism industry is looking to meet earlier expectations after a slow start to the season last spring. He says the tourism industry didn’t kick into high gear until July, nearly a month later than usual.

Wilson says the housing and retail industries both are enjoying upward trends.

“I don’t see a lot of reason to believe that won’t continue in the same general path,” he says. 

On the west edge of downtown Coeur d’Alene, One Lakeside LLC, of Aspen, Colo., plans to break ground as early as this winter on a $20 million, 14-story, mixed-use residential tower.

“I think that definitely will be underway next year,” Wilson says. “That will provide construction jobs.”

In northwest Coeur d’Alene, the city of Coeur d’Alene and its urban renewal agency, Lake City Development Corp., recently agreed to purchase for $2.5 million two miles of BNSF Railway Co. right of way between the Riverstone development and Huetter Road, says Tony Berns, LCDC executive director.

The right of way bifurcates the former Atlas Mill site and has been a hindrance to development there, Berns says. He adds, “Hopefully something will start rolling on that in 2015.”

—Mike McLean

Mike McLean
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Deputy Editor Mike McLean has worked his entire journalism career in the Inland Northwest. Mike, who also lives to reel in fish and crank up music, has worked for the Journal since 2006.

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