The Journal’s View: Creative solutions on display in Spokane business sector
~August 11th, 2022
If the collective Spokane business community had a resume, it would be bolstering its creative thinking and problem-solving skills bullet points this summer in an impressive fashion.
We’ll tell you how and why in a moment, but before that, we want to tip our hat to those who are taking action beyond benefitting their bottom lines and taking steps intended to improve individuals’ lives and the quality of life we value in the Inland Northwest.
With inflation becoming a factor for the first time in many younger professionals’ working lives and talk of recession, the timing is especially important.
The most recent example involves an effort by Inland Northwest credit unions to launch the Spokane Regional Low Income Housing Land Bank.
As reported elsewhere in this issue, local credit unions secured $45,000 in grant money to kick-start the land bank, which will be operated separately from, but in conjunction with, the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium.
The innovative solution to address homelessness is intended to operate in a similar fashion to a conservation land bank, but instead of buying land to preserve natural habitats, the housing land bank would acquire property to be designated for affordable housing. The approach has the potential to be one important component in a multi-pronged approach to finding more permanent housing for vulnerable populations.
On another front, a pair of entrepreneurs acquired a Spokane bakery earlier through a new business categorization known as a limited cooperative association. Made legal in Washington state in 2019, the little-used model is structured so the business is governed by employees and investors alike, and both groups share in profits.
So far, the Spokane Workers Cooperative has five companies in a diverse range of industries, and it reportedly is looking to add more enterprises to its portfolio.
The model is touted as a way for employees to generate more income and potentially build wealth while having a greater say in how an organization operates.
In the startup sector, an effort is underway to convert farmers and other rural residents with wealth into angel investors.
Headed by Washington State University Spokane’s sp3nw, the early-stage life sciences startup incubator, the initiative is a fresh approach to expanding the breadth of capital options in the region while introducing a new—albeit high risk—investment opportunity to people throughout Eastern Washington.
Whether that initiative will be effective remains to be seen, but that’s likely what we would have said 20-plus years ago when a group of Spokane businesspeople wanted to build an initial system for funding startups.
Back then, there was no one place for new businesses to go for seed money or other rounds of investment. It’s taken decades to build up, but now, the Inland Northwest has an entrepreneurial ecosystem that proponents say would rival any other in a similar-sized city.
The economy is facing some headwinds, and some suggest those are going to grow stronger in the coming months. Regardless, it’s encouraging to see the business community stepping up with creative solutions and new approaches at this pivotal time.
We’d like to see more of that, and knowing Spokane, we’re confident we will.