SpokanePlanner

Planning, Economic Development, Politics

Spokane Port District

Here’s How to Write Alternative Port District Legislation

Greater Spokane, Inc (GSI) intends to press our state legislature in the upcoming session to adopt legislation that will create an alternative port district for Spokane County. For those unaware of what port districts do within Washington State, they are (more or less) the premier economic development entities on a county by county basis. Spokane County does not have a port district, which is a significant disadvantage for us from an economic development perspective. If there’s going to be a push from GSI to forego voter approval of a Spokane County port district, as the law presently mandates, any legislation […]

Marty Dickinson

Redundant, Once Again

GSI and the Art of Insanity — I’ve said this all before. There’s a half dozen different SpokanePlanner posts from almost a half-dozen span of years about how to do this right. The recipe to the secret sauce is already published. The genie is out of the bottle. Jack is out of the box. But old Spokane insists on repeating the same mistakes yet expecting different outcomes. Your actions fatigue me, Greater Spokane, Inc. (GSI). I’m not sure if I feel abused or if I enjoy the masochism. Alas, you are, without question, my muse. Thank you, by the way, […]

Opportunity Zone Flow Chart

Who’s Leading Spokane’s Opportunity Zone Conversation?

From time to time projects arise that shine a spotlight on Spokane’s dysfunctional economic development environment. The last time the spotlight shone brightly was during Amazon’s HQ2 process. Now it’s shining again because there’s this new cool thing called Opportunity Zones and our leaders in economic development don’t know what they are, much less how to maximize their potential. It strikes me that if local tax dollars are going into an economic development organization then the least they can do is stay on the cutting edge of economic development tools as the feds or the state or local governments might […]

Amazon Seattle

GSI’s Two Inches of Secrecy

In recent weeks our friends at Greater Spokane, Inc. (GSI), have submitted a two-inch-thick proposal to Amazon in an effort to entice 50,000 jobs to the metro. In comparison, the Spokane Tribe of Indians also submitted a local proposal, which is 30 pages long. The state of Washington’s proposal is 16 pages long. Since GSI’s proposal was submitted, Spokane’s leadership circles have been pressing GSI to release copies of it to them. A fair and reasonable request considering it’s Spokane’s leadership circles – like the city, the county, and the airport district – that will approve the incentives should Amazon […]

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 […]

Streets, Good ‘ol Boys, and Bureaucrats

…in a city without seats, a beach chair can be king. Janette Sadik Khan, from her book Streetfight (2016)   In spring of 2016, the Audubon-Downriver Neighborhood Council invited Spokane’s traffic engineer, Bob Turner, to discuss pedestrian safety on Northwest Boulevard in front of Audubon Park. Members of the neighborhood council requested the city consider traffic calming measures to increase safety for pedestrians who criss-cross Northwest Boulevard getting to and from the park and, not to mention, to Finch Elementary School. Mr. Turner, with years of experience navigating the unique nuances of politely saying no to crowds of people, sure […]

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 […]

GSI Todd Mielke, the protector of the realm

The Phantom Hunter

The clown in the gutter. The woman with a red scarf. The little boy hitch-hiking by a cemetery. That something under your bed. The casino that’s going to close an air force base. It gives me shivers all over. All the unknowns. All the speculation. All the conjecture. It’s terrifying! We need someone to protect us. We need The Phantom Hunter. We need Todd Mielke. Todd Mielke is so good at conjuring phantoms, he’s convinced Greater Spokane, Inc., that he’s the economic development savior for the region, despite the fact he’s been a politician or a lobbyist his entire professional […]

Downtown Spokane (5)

Spokane’s Economic Development Environment

Spokane Economic Development — Spokane’s economic development environment is elusive to articulate. Who, in fact, is in charge of it? If a tech firm wants to build their headquarters downtown, who should they talk to first? How about primary jobs, who signs the check providing incentives for those projects? Quality of life, urban infill, beautification, the arts (yeah, that’s economic development, too), what mechanisms fund those initiatives? Saturated with many actors, from the State of Washington all the way down to local non-profits, ask the folks who play in this arena and even they will have a hard time providing […]

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” […]

Fairchild AFB

Statement on Approval of Kalispel Tribe Casino Project

June 8, 2016 — Forward Fairchild and Greater Kalispel Incorporated Statement on Governor Inslee’s Decision to Approve the Kalispel Tribe Casino Project — Greater Kalispel Incorporated (GKI) and Forward Fairchild are deeply disappointed in Governor Inslee’s announcement today that he is approving the Kalispel Tribe’s Casino Project over the numerous objections from our community as the location poses a severe threat to the future of Fairchild Air Force Base (FAFB). GKI has been advocating and working to protect jobs at FAFB for more than 50 years. FAFB remains one of GKI’s top community priorities and opposes any activity that could […]

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 […]

Inside the Pavilion

What Prosperous 21st Century Cities Do

1) Be the Big City — I suspect we all agree, Spokane has opportunities for improvement. Understanding what we are as a product and acknowledging what we can do to improve it is a big step toward doing just that. We’re the big dog, the central city. Others in the metro can be the best suburban products they can be. The City of Spokane, however, has an obligation to be the best urban product it can be. Where some might argue: “We like Spokane just as it is. There’s no reason to grow into Seattle or Portland.” I would argue […]

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 […]

Riverfront Park, June 2015

5 Ways to Improve Spokane

It’s All About Fundamentals — Below is a list of five things Spokane can do to improve basic services.   Master the Basics There are vast swaths of Spokane – entire neighborhoods – that desperately need just the basics. It confounds me, like it does many residents, why this facet of managing the public domain appears to be so complicated, particularly when it all seems so simple: Make sure streets are in good repair. Make sure pedestrians have a safe place to walk. Make sure cyclists have a safe place to ride. Beautify the public realm. Maintain it all.   […]

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 […]

SpokanePlanner 2016