There’s a few loose threads on the security blanket that covers Spokane’s economic development environment. Some people have noticed it before, and perhaps even have come so close as to rub the tip of their finger against one. Everybody sees it, the loose threads, and yet getting out from under the warmth and comfort of the blanket is too much of a risk despite all the loose ends.
What those loose threads need is someone just reckless enough to take a tug. You know as well as I do, we both want to see what happens when it unravels. Like a boy with his blanky, metro Spokane would be lost without it – the damn thing is old and musty, loose threads abound, and we no longer have the capacity to even question its utility.
Those loose threads are a constant reminder, however, that maybe our blanky lacks integrity. The warmth and comfort it provides is simply an illusion created by our own collective psyche. It’s an awkward feeling, to be sure – standing there out from beneath it, naked and self-conscious with nothing to cling to. People will judge but trust those that do wish to be out from under it just as much as you, and they’re simply jealous of your bravery. Such is politics.
But like a mother who begins to wonder if her boy is getting a little too mature to be dragging that ratty old thing around, there are a surprising number of people that question whether or not it’s time for a new security blanket – one that actually has utility.
They talk, those that question the blanky. In the corporate back rooms, coffee shops, lunch time eateries, and over drinks. They look around the room and then lean in a little like they’re sharing a secret: “There’s a better way,” they’ll tell you, “a more effective approach, one that actually creates results rather than illusions.”
If only someone was just reckless enough to tug at one of those loose threads. Someone who’s not worried about making nice. Someone aiming to pick a fight.
Here are 10 reasons why you should drop your GSI membership:
10) Everything GSI takes credit for, someone else had to do it for them.
The only tool they have is advocacy. You’ll have to decide whether that’s worth a GSI membership.
9) Economic development is market driven, not charity driven.
Relying on grants, fundraising, and state appropriations is the antithesis of economic development. There’s better ways to go about getting results that don’t rely on panhandling. Anything helps, right?
8) The experiment has failed.
In early 2007, the Spokane Area Economic Development Council and the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce merged to form Greater Spokane, Inc. Today, GSI is neither an economic development agency nor a chamber of commerce. (I don’t know what they are.)
7) If you skip the meaningless middlemen, you skip the drama.
If you’re trying to get a public/private partnership done, the only opinions at the table that matter are yours and the stakeholders who have the authority to approve the transaction. More opinions at the table simply increase the risk of derailment. Providing GSI a seat at the table is allowing the camel’s nose beneath the tent.
6) You’re underwriting the benefit of the elite members, not your own.
Only those with means have the influence to sway GSI’s board in one direction or another. And whatever direction it may sway, trust it will be to protect individual best interests, not your own.
5) Greater Spokane, Inc., has no tools in the tool box.
The absolute best they can do is ask someone else to do it for them.
4) If you’re going to give your money to charity, give it to an arts organization.
The arts is among the few economic development tools that must rely on subsidies to rev-up the engine. Once established, however, it will mature into a self-sustaining, market driven tool. If you want to financially contribute toward boosting the local economy, help establish a thriving arts scene.
3) The purpose of economic development is to fill gaps in the market, not vet the competition.
For an organization that purports to be an economic development agency, GSI sure does advocate against a lot of growth.
2) GSI is the gatekeeper for old Spokane.
The only thing that keeps Spokane from maturing into the best mid-sized metro in the nation is Spokane, and what stunts maturation most is Greater Spokane, Inc.
1) Old economic development theory will provide you with just that: the old economy.
Economic development organizations are in the change business. But not GSI, they’re in the status quo business. Cities that lean on 50-year old theories (most of which have been discredited) are going to have a hard time stepping into the 2000s.