Spokane Journal of Business

The Journal’s View: Celebrate past leaders while challenging their successors


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As the Journal celebrates its 2022 class of Business Icons, it’s a good time to reflect on the critical work of past leaders whose hard work contributed to make the Inland Northwest the thriving hub it is today.

While honoring the past, we ask current business owners, executives, and civic leaders to consider one question: What am I doing now that will make Spokane a better place to live, work, and play in the future?

We’ll come back to that. First, let’s focus on Icons.

The parameters to be a candidate for Icons are simple. A candidate must be 70 years old or older, must be no longer working or involved in a business’s day-to-day practices, and must have spent the bulk of his or her career in the Inland Northwest. Also, because the awards aren’t given posthumously, honorees must still be living.

Those are the requirements, but what sets nearly every candidate apart is the work they did away from work. With few exceptions, their involvement in civic and business organizations proves to be as pivotal as their efforts to build and grow a business and career.

Take Nate and Roberta Greene, two of the Journal’s 2022 honorees. They didn’t know anyone when they came to Spokane to own and operate the Empire Ford dealership in the mid-1980s, but both immersed themselves in the community immediately. In addition to other activities, Roberta served as a Spokane city councilwoman for eight years. Involved in many ways, Nate continues to sit on the Spokane Public Facilities District board.

Or look at Gordon Budke. An accountant by trade, Budke participated in Momentum ’87, a transformative economic development effort that is credited with establishing Spokane’s University District and bringing a venture capital presence to the Inland Northwest. He also was a founding board member of Momentum’s successor, Focus 21, and the Downtown Spokane Partnership.

The examples go on, from both the current class of Icons and the cohorts from the previous three years.

In regard to the younger generations, the hope is that the achievements of past leaders serve as inspiration to take on challenges and initiatives beyond the workplace. Is there another Momentum-type initiative in Spokane’s future? What might that look like? It will be up to Generation X and millennials to shape such conversations.

Because, while younger, those generations aren’t exactly young anymore. The oldest Gen Xers turn 56 this year and are less than 10 years from traditional retirement age. The oldest millennials turn 40 and formally enter middle age.

It’s the prime time for those generations to start thinking about their legacies and whether they will leave a lasting impact on the Spokane community, something beyond building wealth and nurturing family.

Who will be the Icons 20 years from now and what accomplishments will we be touting? The time to start down those roads is now.

As our publisher likes to say, giving back to your community isn’t just an opportunity; it’s an obligation.

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