Spokane Region Economic plan for area to be created

Business leaders hope development plan will lead to
federal grants

About 10 years ago area business leaders put
together a comprehensive strategic plan to help
boost the economy. The effort had limited success.

Tom Sowa
Staff writer

This year, business and community leaders are back
with a similar plan, but are now hoping for a bigger

The creation of a "comprehensive economic
development strategy (CEDS)" will help guide the
entire region, said Mark Turner, president of the
Economic Development Council.

Once finished, the document will open the door for
federal grants that Turner and others hope will
create new jobs.

The 1991 effort — submitted to the federal Economic
Development Administration — produced a thick
document that no one is able to find today.

Turner wasn’t in Spokane in 1991 when the first plan
was formulated. Instead of CEDS, it bore the
bureaucratic acronym of OEDP for Overall Economic
Development Plan.

"We tried to find a copy of that earlier effort to see in
detail what was done then," said Turner.

The process didn’t result in any significant grants for
economic development in the county.

By contrast, Turner said, this year’s effort is entirely
focused on finding federal money from the Economic
Development Administration.

"We need resources. We are resource poor" when it
comes to focused projects for economic
development, he said.

Communitywide prescriptions for a better economy
are becoming a tradition in Spokane.

In 2000, several Spokane groups paid $10,000 to a
Mississippi consultant who prepared a list of
remedies to invigorate the economy.

In 1996, area business groups created a New
Century Task Force that produced a revitalization

In 1995, the Pace Report — funded by educators and
area business groups — highlighted the shortage of
good-paying jobs. The report was sponsored by the

The latest effort would have gotten under way
sooner, Turner said, but Spokane County only
qualified for consideration late last year.

To qualify, a county’s unemployment rate must
exceed the national jobless average by at least 1
percent for two straight years. Spokane County didn’t
reach that benchmark until late in 2001.

Last month, the county’s unemployment rate was 6.1

The EDC has established a two-step process for
creating a regional plan. More than 50 area groups
and representatives have been recruited to meet
during the next two months. The goal is to draft a
"vision" and a list of key economic growth strategies.

The plan will then be submitted to the EDA office in
Seattle by the end of the year.

If the EDA approves the draft, the EDC (or whoever
takes the lead in the application) can apply for
economic development grant money.

Local grant applications will compete with proposals
from other counties and cities across the Northwest.
And EDA panel will allocate the money.

Lloyd Kirry, an EDA representative for Eastern
Washington, said the best Spokane can hope for is
to secure one or two specific economic development
grants totaling between $600,000 and $1.5 million.

The EDA now favors "macro" proposals that are
broader in scope, such as a project that benefits a
regional industry like biotechnology, Turner said.

The EDC Web site —
provides a summary of the CEDS process and the
names of those who’ve started the draft application.

Donald Epley, an urban economist from Washington
State University Spokane, said it’s doubtful there’s
enough time to produce any new analysis of
economic conditions. Instead, the effort may end up
assembling already prepared information included in
previous projects, such as the county’s Growth
Management planning process, he said.

Even so, Epley says the comprehensive economic
development strategy "brings together the critical
stakeholders at one table, and gets them talking
about the issues that will help the community grow."

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