Spokane Economic projects narrowed to four

Major plan would turn F.O. Berg building into business incubator

A community group has identified four projects as a start toward creating jobs and boosting Spokane’s economic future.

Tom Sowa
Staff writer

Of the four proposals, the most important is a plan to convert the former F.O. Berg building along Trent Avenue into a business incubator and laboratory for medical research at Washington State University.

The other three projects focus on a new Cheney technology park, expanded facilities at the Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute (SIRTI), and a loan fund to jump-start young businesses.

The proposals are considered the best of more than 30 ideas developed during a three-month effort by 50 area volunteers and civic leaders.

The lead agency pushing the community effort is the Spokane Area Economic Development Council (EDC).

The process started earlier this year when Spokane County became eligible to apply for economic development grants from the federal government. To get the money, the group had to define a comprehensive economic development strategy.

The group will next meet with officials from the federal Economic Development Administration to refine the proposals, said Mark Turner, president of Spokane’s EDC.

"The meeting will also give them a chance to tell us if what we’re asking is way out of the question," Turner said.

Spokane’s projects will compete for federal money with dozens of other proposals from throughout the Northwest. Those that receive funding are selected based on several factors including the total impact any single project may have on a community.

Seattle’s EDA office has a limited budget for the projects that receive funding, further limiting Spokane’s chances, said Lloyd Kirry, an EDA coordinator.

He estimated that Spokane’s proposal may get enough support — with luck — to fund two projects that together total $2 million or less.

The four projects and the dollar amounts being sought are:

•$1.5 million for Washington State University Spokane’s conversion of the F.O. Berg building along Trent Avenue. The building currently houses the "Bookie" bookstore, serves as a WSU warehouse and has one monthly business tenant.

The plan is to develop incubator offices for downtown businesses, plus create temporary office and classroom space for the proposed WSU Medical Research Institute.

•$345,00 for a Cheney Technology Park. The goal is to add roads, water and sewer services to 20 undeveloped acres on the west edge of the city of Cheney to eventually create about 200 jobs.

•$732,000 for expansion of biotechnology labs at SIRTI. SIRTI’s crowded building doesn’t have enough lab space to meet the growing need of area biotech firms, said Turner. The proposal expects the payoff of 32 new jobs over the next three years.

•$500,000 for a small-business revolving loan fund. The idea is to stimulate the economy by investing in new and developing firms. The project expects a return of 36 jobs over three years.

Business writer Tom Sowa can be reached at (509) 459-5492 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Sorry, we couldn't find any posts. Please try a different search.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.