Spokane ranked 84th best place to start business City climbs 11 slots in small-metro survey

Community leaders looking for good news found
something to celebrate in a recent ranking that says
Spokane has become a more attractive place to start a

Tom Sowa
Staff writer Spokesman Review

A national report on business growth ranks Spokane as the
84th-best small metropolitan area to start a business.

That’s 11 spots higher than Spokane ranked in the same
survey of 134 small metro areas conducted a year ago by
Cognetics, Inc. of Cambridge, Mass.

Two years ago, Spokane ranked 98th — the lowest it’s ever
ranked in the survey.

Cognetics, an economics consulting firm, has analyzed
business growth across the country since 1992.

The ranking is based on the number of new companies in
an area and number of jobs they have created, said Anne
Haggerty, director of analytical services for Cognetics.

A rise of 11 spots is not monumental in the Cognetics
survey. Some cities rose or dropped 20 spots or more.

But it does mean some growth has occurred in Spokane
compared with the other 133 small metros measured in the
survey, Haggerty said.

This year’s top-ranked small metro is Las Vegas; the
lowest-ranking is Utica-Rome, N.Y.

Three other Northwest small metros gained in the new
survey: Boise climbed two spots to 24th, Salem moved
from 74th to 73rd and Yakima-Tri Cities edged up from
130th to 125th.

Northwest small metros that sank were Eugene, which fell
to 106th from 121st, and Tacoma, which dropped two
spots to 126th.

"This gain doesn’t surprise me at all," said Tom Simpson, a
managing partner of Northwest Venture Associates, a
venture firm that tracks start-up companies in the

"Spokane’s a place where a lot of people are choosing to
live. It’s a great place for a young company to emerge and

Others said the survey, while not definitive, at least
confirms the belief that Spokane and North Idaho are doing
all right, despite tough economic news.

"We don’t want to overlook this gain," said Mark Turner,
president of the Spokane Area Economic Development

"These rankings sometimes have more to do with how we
see ourselves, than how others perceive us," he said.

Simpson, however, said area business leaders should use
the ranking to "pound the drum and continue to do what
we can to show the world this is a place where businesses
can grow."

Unlike other rankings, such as the Forbes "best places"
survey, this one doesn’t give higher priority to technology

The main reason Spokane gained ground in the ranking is
the category Cognetics calls "young growers." That index
looks at the number of jobs created by companies that
were started here in the past 10 years.

In that index, Spokane climbed notably against other small

Cognetics conducts a separate survey based on the same
criteria for the nation’s 50 largest metros.

In that ranking, Phoenix is listed as the most attractive
place to start a new business, said Haggerty.

The lowest-ranking large city is Albany-Troy, N.Y.

Seattle and Portland both lost places in the large-metro
ranks. Portland fell from 32nd to 39th. Seattle slid from
34th to 41st.

The annual survey has two purposes, said Haggerty. One
is to help entrepreneurs or business executives find areas
with strong potential growth.

It also serves as a checklist for each area that may be
asking, "As a community trying to encourage business,
how are we doing?" Haggerty said.

Data for the city listings is compiled from Dun &
Bradstreet and Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, plus
other sources.

The new Cognetics ranking also tried to compare regions
and states for entrepreneurial growth.

The top three states are Nevada, Arizona and Utah.
Washington ranked 39th, a drop of eight spots.

Idaho ranked 21st, a drop of one spot.

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

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