Spokane Journal of Business

Visions 2023: Multifaceted approach to guide economic development

Several initiatives are underway that set up Spokane to prsoper

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A vibrant community requires a vibrant economy. Economic development gives the community a say in how the economy grows. 

What does the future of economic development hold for the Spokane region? We don’t have a crystal ball, but what we can do is learn from history, rely on economic indicators, consider local, national, and international events, and listen to the forecast given by our trusted economists. We convene a wide range of community partners to track data and trends to implement a strategy that nurtures a vibrant economy.   

For more than 130 years, Greater Spokane Inc. has been leading community initiatives and projects that create a thriving Spokane region. We create the place where organizations come together to advocate for the region, drive strategic economic growth, and champion a talented workforce. In short, we work to build a robust regional economy.  

 

Equitable Spokane

In June 2021, GSI led a community-wide effort to create our region’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy called THRIVE Spokane. This strategy is a roadmap for economic development efforts across the region for the next five years to create a more equitable, resilient, competitive, and connected economy. This collaborative effort includes partners from around the region to identify current economic development gaps and strategies. Stakeholders included members of K-12 and higher education institutions, chambers, downtown associations, transportation councils, the business community, philanthropy, and multi-ethnic community organizations.  

Equitable economic growth creates a more vibrant and resilient economy. A guiding principle of THRIVE Spokane focuses on underrepresented (including BIPOC, women, veteran, LGBTQ+, and rural communities) small businesses and entrepreneurs who face major hurdles when it comes to access to capital. It also involves training opportunities, workforce solutions, supply chain navigation, mentoring, community connections, and more. Our goal is to work toward understanding and dismantling barriers to create initiatives that include all Spokane regional businesses and residents. In addition, we support those community organizations already doing the important work of connecting underrepresented businesses with the resources they need to promote the growth and expansion of their businesses. 

 

Competitive Growth

An important part of economic growth includes supporting the health and well-being of our local business community. We do this by providing important services such as business retention and expansion programs, startup and entrepreneurial services, strategies to support local industry growth, business recruitment campaigns, addressing talent development and workforce shortages, and advocating at all levels of government. These programs and strategies each play an important role and we will highlight two. 

Talent development is key and top of mind for many of us as we work with regional education and business partners to fill essential workforce positions. Bridging the gap between the education and business communities is critical to address workforce shortages, provide career pathway opportunities, and create child care and early learning access solutions. Connecting students and our workforce to credentialing and upskilling opportunities through our Greater Minds and Career Connect Northeast networks helps us continue to expand collective efforts to reach the goal of 60% education attainment in Spokane County by 2025. This means that 60% of residents would hold a post-high school degree or certificate. Examples of these efforts include Business AfterSchool, Trades Nights, Career Fairs, and the Education & Talent Alliance.

Business recruitment efforts are an important tool as business consolidation and corporate acquisitions mean there are fewer corporate headquarters in our area. We focus our efforts on three industry sectors that play to our community’s advantages and are primed for growth in advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and technology. Working with firms to help us conduct targeted advertising to thousands in our key industry sectors sets us up for successful connections and meetings with interested companies looking to expand their businesses. These conversations lead to site visits, which, hopefully, lead to recruitment. The process can take up to five years and that is why it is important that our recruitment efforts are ongoing. Although sales missions and tradeshows are not the majority of our overall economic development efforts, they play an important role to promote our region to those wanting to invest, live, and do business in Spokane.

 

A Connected Community

Connection is the key. Creating and sustaining a vibrant Spokane region is all about partnerships. Each of us likely defines economic development differently, but we all show up with a shared passion and commitment to our community. The businesses and organizations that invest in this work through GSI and across the region provide leadership to ensure we are creating a forward trajectory.  We are unique, in that our community does not have a dedicated tax or port district funding. Spokane County’s economic and business development rests on the shoulders of our business and community investors. We thank all of them and hope you too will consider walking alongside us as we build a robust regional economy, together. 

 

Alisha Benson is the CEO of Greater Spokane Inc.

 

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