West Plains PDA selects new executive director
Economic development specialist from Utah to fill position following year-long national searchAugust 31st, 2023
S3R3 Solutions, the West Plains public development authority for the 9,500-acre area encompassing Spokane International Airport, has hired Chris Pengra as the organization’s executive director, says Al French, Spokane County commissioner and chairman of the PDA’s board of directors.
Pengra, who has worked the last 10 years as economic development director for the city of West Jordan, Utah, was selected after a national search-and-recruitment effort that lasted nearly a year. He’s expected to start in the position on Friday, Sept. 1.
Pengra will replace Todd Coleman, S3R3’s first director, who left the public development authority last September to work full time at Deer Park-based Evergreen Excavating LLC, a company he co-owns.
During the search for a new director, the PDA has been led on an interim basis initially by former Spokane County CEO Gerry Gemmill and more recently by Rick Romero, former utilities director for the city of Spokane.
Throughout his tenure with the city of West Jordan, a small municipality within the Salt Lake City metro area, Pengra was successful in attracting new business to the region and implemented business retention and expansion programs to strengthen local workforce, French says.
“His skill sets will take S3R3 to the next level, not only for the West Plains, but for Spokane County,” he says.
Pengra holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Maryland and is certified through the International Economic Development Council as an economic developer.
He says he made the decision to move to Washington state with his wife, Lianne, and two teenage daughters because of the quality of life in the Inland Northwest region and the opportunity to drive economic development on the West Plains.
“After meeting with the board, it was clear to me that, for the West Plains region and S3R3, the sky is the limit for possible economic development,” he says.
In his new role, Pengra will oversee and direct all economic development activities of S3R3, partner with the private and public sectors to drive new capital investments, and advance sustainable job and income growth in the West Plains Airport Area.
As previously reported by the Journal, S3R3 was formed in 2017 through a partnership between Spokane County, the City of Spokane, and Spokane International Airport as the West Plains-Airport Area Public Development Authority to target manufacturing, aerospace, and distribution development in an effort to increase the number of living-wage jobs in the Spokane area.