SpokanePlanner

Planning, Economic Development, Politics

Downtown Spokane Stadium Location Joe Albi

Build Us a New Stadium Downtown

This post has been updated several times since originally being published on July 7, 2018. What was once a Spokane Public Schools bond question then morphed to a city bond question and now Spokane City Council will place it on the ballot as an advisory vote because, one way or another, Spokane Public Schools has $31 million embedded into their bond request to either upgrade the current stadium on the fringe of town or build a new one downtown. Phew! What an exhausting ride. No matter how it’s paid for or who owns the ballot question, if the goal is to […]

Hillyard Spokane

Metro Spokane’s Economic Development Toolbox

Don’t look now, but there are entities and jurisdictions within our fine metro working some economic development magic by leveraging real tools that attract real investment. It’s amazing how much can get done with market-driven revenue streams and public-driven economic development tools. What follows are metro Spokane’s most significant drivers of economic development.   1) Spokane City Council Whether you like it or not, Spokane City Council sets the tone for the metro. Urban policies start and end with our central city. Our suburbs will do what they will but, make no mistake, Spokane City Council is obligated to its […]

Spokane Economic Development

Insurgents and Disruption

There are 287 start-up accelerators in Silicon Valley. I just spent two days at one of the first of them, Plug and Play, whereby the likes of Google and PayPal were launched. If you’re curious about the leading edge of any given market sector, spend a couple days at Plug and Play watching three-minute start-up presentations. Silicon Valley deploys a unique language to describe innovative market opportunities. Words like insurgents, incumbents, platforms, space, ecosystem, acceleration, disruption – this is the lingo used by innovators and those who venture-fund them. Through the lens of Spokane’s economic development system, the words above […]

Spokane Works to Attract Amazon HQ2

About Amazon

As you probably already know, Amazon is soliciting proposals for placement of an eight-billion-dollar investment that will create about 50,000 new jobs with an average wage of $100k per year, otherwise known as HQ2. It’s the talk of the nation’s economic development community, including Spokane’s. Those who get paid to conduct economic development within metro Spokane (and even those that don’t) intend to submit at least one proposal to Amazon in an effort to entice them here. Before you say it can’t be done, before you say “we don’t have at least one million people” like the request for proposals […]

Downtown Spokane March 2017

How to Attract Tech Firms to Spokane

Spokane is on the cusp of tapping into deep pools of investment driven primarily by the tech sector and all its tributaries. Based primarily on our proximity to the coast’s big metro tech hubs (Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco), our affordable real estate, and our quality of life, the feeling is Spokane is poised to accept a wave of tech investments as well as all those tech refugees that come with them. Trouble is no one from Spokane’s public sector is actively engaged and working to attract all that money and talent restlessly sitting over on the coast. It’s time […]

Russell Senate Office Building Hallway

Creating a Competitive Advantage

There are a lot of long and solemn hallways in Washington, DC. How best to navigate them is a learning experience for everyone, particularly elected officials. Annually, our local non-profits and governmental jurisdictions journey to the hallways of DC to lobby for their respective projects or policies. And so it comes to pass a bill that was recently introduced in the Senate’s Finance Committee called the Promise Zone Job Creation Act of 2017. Don’t look now, but Congress is considering creation of a new economic development tool that will give Spokane leverage over the competition. There are only 22 Promise […]

Mark Richard, Spokane

The Guy Who Says It Can’t Be Done

Mark Richard’s Bold Vision —   They’ll always say “It can’t be done.” When government officials, business people, and even some of your own neighbors say it won’t work, what they really mean is “We’ve never done it like this before.” It’s a sign you’re on the right track. Jay Walljasper, The Great Neighborhood Book   A few weeks ago, I published a post called Streets, Good ‘ol Boys, and Bureaucrats, in which I critiqued Spokane’s political elite for their lack of urban vision (among other things). Mark Richard, President of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, felt compelled to respond via […]

Downtown Spokane Parking Lot

What Economic Development Is, and Who Has the Authority to Do It

Ask your friends what economic development is and you’ll get a variety of different answers. Ask a county commissioner, ask a city council person, ask Vinny down at Dick’s, and you’re going to get different answers to a person. The answer isn’t complicated, however. Economic development is the art of filling gaps in the market. Sometimes there’s a 100% gap and we’re creating a whole new thing, like a couple of medical schools in Spokane’s U-District. Most of the time, the gap is much less, like subsidizing losses at the Spokane Convention Center to create multipliers triggered by a robust […]

Downtown Spokane (4)

The Case to Increase DSP’s Budget by $4 Million Per Year

The Downtown Spokane Partnership (DSP) is a private, non-profit agency that manages a roughly $1.5 million annual budget. The bulk of their annual budget is generated from a special Parking and Business Improvement Area tax (otherwise known as a “business improvement district”).[i] Trouble is our City’s Parking and Business Improvement Area isn’t even in the parking business, but it ought to be. Annual revenue from the City of Spokane’s public parking meters is about $4 million per year (and growing). By transitioning DSP into the public parking business, the City and downtown will have a real, market driven tool to […]

Downtown Spokane - Early 2015

The Tail That Wags the Dog

Spokane’s Economic Development Business — Why does Spokane City Council pay the Downtown Spokane Partnership about $100,000 per year to manage another (roughly) $1,000,000 per year in downtown business assessments? No, seriously, this is a poignant question: Why does the City pay an independent, private, third party entity to manage about $1,000,000 per year in public assessment revenue and, to boot, pay them another $100,000 for the pleasure of doing it? DSP may have fooled us once, but Greater Spokane, Inc. (GSI) has fooled us twice. Why do we pay GSI about $130,000 per year to “speak for the city” […]

Steve Salvatori

The View From Inside the Box

In Response to My Friend Steve Salvatori — Below you will find a facebook exchange between former Spokane City Council person Steve Salvatori and SpokanePlanner. Steve was fired-up based on a post SpokanePlanner published titled “How to Weaken Spokane’s Good ol’ Boy Culture,” posted on March 30, 2016. In an effort to respond to Steve’s arguments, I have crafted this post. Much of what Steve argues I have already provided arguments against in previous posts, so links will be provided in the appropriate places. Don’t think of this as a debate between Steve Salvatori and SpokanePlanner, because it’s a debate between old-Spokane and new-Spokane, […]

Economic Development

How to Weaken Spokane’s Good ol’ Boy Culture

Ever wonder why Greater Spokane, Inc., and the Downtown Spokane Partnership hired former county commissioners to run their respective shops? It’s because core knowledge, skills, and experience within the realm of economic development matters little. Nope, in the Spokane game, it’s advocacy, lobbying, and fundraising that count most. (The funny part is they call it “economic development.”) Economic development isn’t an exercise in philanthropy; it’s market-driven. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: fundraising, grant writing, and generally asking other people for money is not an economic development strategy; on the contrary, it’s what you do when you […]

Downtown Spokane Retail Mix

Of Leakage, Retail Trade Areas, and Losing Downtown Department Stores

The City of Spokane is about to lose its second Costco. The first one closed in the year 2000. Not in the history of downtown development is it a good thing to lose an anchor like Macy’s — alas, downtown’s last true department store. Costco needs more space (as did the first one that abandoned the city in 2000), and Macy’s is downsizing its portfolio. It hardly needs to be said but both closures are significant hits to Spokane’s retail environment, each for its own reasons. What does this all mean? How can Spokane better compete in the retail recruitment […]

Macy's Madonna, Spokane

A Redevelopment Plan For Downtown Macy’s

A 10-Step Plan for the old Macy’s Block — Losing a downtown retail anchor like Macy’s isn’t something cities tend to brag about. But, despite the disappointing loss, many see an opportunity to rehabilitate an old building right in the heart of downtown Spokane. In a future post I intend to explore why Macy’s closed. For now, however, we need to get to work. If leaders in Spokane City Hall are at all interested in leveraging Macy’s closure into an economic development, smart growth, and quality of life opportunity (as I hope they are), there is no time to waste. […]

GSI Todd Mielke, the protector of the realm

The Best Magic Act in Town

GSI And The Art Of Illusion — I’m 37. I spent the first 18 years of my life trying to get out of Spokane and the next 18 trying to get back in. This town has a tendency to do that to people. Now, when I look around, I see a large group of us, back home, all hungry for change, and eager to transform Spokane into a 21st century city. But you don’t need to be born and raised to see Spokane’s largely squandered potential. Newcomers can see it, too, and they tend to be all the more confused […]

Kiemle and Hagood

The Fallacies Money Can Buy

The Gateway to Old Spokane —  There’s a room in the office building Greater Spokane, Inc., calls home with a plaque outside its doorway. A lot of people walk by it on their way into meetings. GSI’s primary corporate conference room is big — can fit a healthy 50 or so folks. They hold press conferences in it, board meetings, committee meetings, even regular old routine meetings. This is where Spokane’s most influential power brokers conjoin, where they ritualize consensus building — a unique custom formed over the course of generations whereby the topic de-jure is thoroughly analyzed to ensure […]

Mayor Condon

GSI Ignores Call for Divorce

GSI’s Puffy Talking Points On October 23 Council President Ben Stuckart delivered a letter to Christine Johnson, PhD, President of Spokane Community Colleges and Chairwoman of Greater Spokane, Inc. In it, Stuckart calls for an “internal conversation starter” whereby he questions inherent conflicts that exist between attempting to serve membership and attempting to serve the public. As Stuckart points out in his letter, I have seen GSI oppose massive multi-million dollar projects to protect the interests of current members. This is the opposite of what an economic development organization would and should do. In early 2007, the Spokane Area Economic […]

Spokane Zoning Code

How to Rewrite Spokane’s Zoning Code

…and do it for cheap, and within one year. Ask any developer in town and they’ll tell you Spokane’s zoning code is a mess. Ask any property owner trying to put up a fence, or a shed, or re-landscape their property, and they’ll tell you that Spokane’s zoning code is a mess. Ask the Spokane Home Builders’ Association, and they’ll agree. Ask Envision Spokane, and they’ll agree. Ask any neighborhood council member. Ask any city councilmember. Ask the mayor. Ask city employees. Ask the guy who plays electronic violin in front of Riverpark Square. They’ll all tell you the same […]

GSI Membership

10 Reasons to Drop Your GSI Membership

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 […]

Spokane Economic Development

Grading Spokane’s Economic Development Performance

Economic development theories evolve nearly as quickly as the market. Local economic development organizations, therefore, also must evolve in an effort to consistently be at the forefront of economic development practice. Spokane’s performance toward this end has room for improvement. Many eras within the field have been largely discredited and replaced with healthier alternatives. Metro Spokane, however, still clings to several outdated models that cities of the future have long since dismissed. Below are all the broader economic development models tested and practiced by cities and counties throughout the nation. Of course, it’s difficult to capture them all, particularly smaller […]

Spokane Incentives

The Incentives GSI Can’t Give You

(Hint: It’s All of Them) — Throughout the early 2000s up until 2008, a Danish corporation called Vestas was shopping for cities to build a $250 million wind turbine manufacturing facility. With employment of roughly 500 great paying primary jobs and, not to mention, the potential of one lucky community to establish a strong base in the alternative energy sector, practically the entire nation was vying for the investment. As coincidence would have it, Greater Spokane, Inc., was in the mix. With their American headquarters firmly established in Portland, Oregon, the brass at Vestas were but a hop, skip, and […]

Spokane's Best Neighborhoods

9 Ways to Improve Spokane’s Economic Health

Nine Simple Economic Development Strategies to Improve Spokane — Below is a simple economic development plan for the City of Spokane and, indeed, for the metro. A few items on the list may perhaps be challenging to implement. Nonetheless, it’s nothing a little verve and creativity can’t solve.   1: Dispel with the notion that fundraising, grant writing, and advocating for special appropriations is economic development. This one generally speaks for itself. I know I’ve said this in a previous posting, but fundraising, grant writing, and generally asking other people for money is not an economic development strategy; to the contrary, it’s […]

The Davenport Grand Hotel

How to Negotiate a Downtown Hotel Deal

Lessons Learned from the Worthy Transaction — Mayor Condon is in a pickle. Like baseball, there are numerous unwritten rules to the economic development game that only experience within the realm can help one follow. Don’t ask me how many there are because no one really has an answer. Over time, as one moves from rookie to journeyman and, eventually, to veteran; all of these unspoken rules become ingrained in your psyche, a sixth-sense that separates the veterans from the rookies. A healthy handful of unspoken rules Mayor Condon just learned the hard way. There’s been a lot of press […]

SpokanePlanner 2016