Spokane Journal of Business

The Journal’s View: West Plains PDA is working in its mission to attract jobs

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The recent news that California-based Mullen Technologies Inc. intends to locate its manufacturing plant on the West Plains highlights the effectiveness of the West Plains-Airport Area Public Development Authority as the catalyst to attract potentially thousands of strong-wage jobs to the Spokane area.

In less than two years since it was first formed via an unusual revenue-sharing agreement between the city of Spokane, Spokane County, and Spokane International Airport, the PDA has had a hand in successfully recruiting several major developments. It also has sparked construction of infrastructure projects designed to attract more employers.

The PDA agreement fosters joint development to benefit all three member jurisdictions and avoids internal competition for projects that will benefit the greater Spokane area. That cooperation is key to accomplishments that the PDA can already boast, says Todd Coleman, the agency’s executive director.

The PDA is focused on infrastructure and getting the message out there that property is available for an aerospace and advanced-manufacturing cluster, Coleman says.

While some question at this point how sure of a thing the car manufacturing plant is, Mullen has commitments with its Chinese partner to produce and market electric sports cars in North America by next year.

The same week Mullen announced its plans to locate a manufacturing plant in Spokane, the company debuted its new electric sports car on the other side of the country, at the New York International Auto show.

On the heels of that show, Coleman says, Mullen is raising money, while the PDA is developing design concepts to estimate costs to construct the plant, which Mullen will back with a surety bond that will minimize risk to county taxpayers.

And Mullen is looking farther ahead with its plans to produce a next-generation of lithium ion batteries, which could result in a much broader range of use than one brand of electric vehicle, and also could result in job numbers exceeding those expected to be created by Amazon.com Inc. at its West Plains fulfillment center.

Mullen is only one in a string of successful recruitments by the PDA and several of its partners so far, highlighted by $181 million Amazon fulfillment center, which is expected to open in the fall, less than 20 months after Amazon representatives first visited.

Other developments planned or underway within the PDA boundaries include the North 40 Outfitters retail store at the northeast corner of Deer Heights Road and U.S. 2; the Marriott Springhill Suites hotel near the airport terminals; the Sleep Inn/Mainstay hotel on Geiger Boulevard; Kenworth Sales-Spokane, at Geiger and Thomas Mallen Road; and Bush Car Wash and retail center, in the Pacific Northwest Technology Park.

Some of those projects were in motion well before the PDA was established, but all bode well for the organization and those it serves. 

The work within the PDA also has led to accelerated state transportation projects, such reconstructing Interstate 90 interchanges at Geiger and Medical Lake. The county has been awarded federal funding to reconstruct Geiger Boulevard with utility and infrastructure.

The PDA also has landed funding for a railroad spur which will accelerate construction of a long-envisioned transload facility to allow for efficient transferring of freight between rail cars and trucks.

All of this activity occurring in such a short timeframe demonstrates that the multijurisdictional partnership that is the West Plains-Airport Area Public Development Authority is achieving successes it was designed to do--perhaps at a faster pace than even its founders envisioned.

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