Spokane: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Natural resources have traditionally provided much of the economic activity for the Spokane area, a major center for the timber, agriculture, and mining industries in the region. A number of manufacturing companies have located in Spokane, drawn by the easy access to raw materials. Finished wood products, metal refinery and fabrication, and food processing are among the leaders in manufacturing. The outlying areas are part of an abundant agricultural system, providing a large amount of the nation's apples, peas, hops, pears, asparagus, lentils, soft wheat, and sweet cherries. A number of wineries and breweries also operate in the area. These industries continue to be important elements in the local economy, but in recent years the economy has diversified to encompass high-technology and service companies. Health-related industries employ more people than any other industry in Spokane. The city provides specialized care to many patients from the surrounding areas, as far north as the Canadian border. The city is also the wholesale and retail trade and service center of the 80,000-square-mile Inland Northwest region. In addition, the educational services industry employed the most workers in 2002 with more than 17,000 jobs.

All branches of the U.S. armed forces are represented in Spokane County. The largest military facility is Fairchild Air Force Base, which employs 3,359 military and 863 civilian personnel. The military units and their personnel combine to have an economic impact on the regional economy of $411 million annually. Tourism is the fourth largest industry in the state, and Spokane is a center for tourist activity. Health care accounts for approximately 13.5 percent of the local employment base. Spokane has also seen the recent development of economic activity in the lucrative high-tech and biotech sectors. The city is the site of a 100-block wireless network- the largest of its kind in the country-which is seen as symbolic of its dedication to the development of technological opportunities and resources.

In 2002 Kaiser Aluminum, a major employer with a 60-year presence in the region, filed for bankruptcy. Despite the loss of jobs and revenue, Spokane has rebounded by working to make the city attractive to retail and small businesses.

Items and goods produced: silver, lead, zinc, timber, poultry, dairy, vegetable, fruit, and meat products, aluminum, magnesium, clay and cement products, machinery and metal products, flour, feed, cereal, petroleum products, paper, electrical fixtures

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Businesses

Local programs

The Spokane Area Economic Development Council works with businesses to locate and utilize local and state business incentives. The Spokane Neighborhood Economic Development Alliance offers two revolving loans to businesses and nonprofits expanding or creating new jobs in Spokane.

State programs

A wide variety of tax incentives exist at the state level for businesses operating, expanding, or relocating to Spokane. Industry- and area-specific tax incentives are available, as well as loans, bonds, credits, and grants.

Job training programs

Spokane businesses are assisted largely by working with the higher education community, including such organizations as Applied Technology Center, part of the Community Colleges of Spokane; ITT Technical Institute, which focuses on preparing graduates for careers in technology, and the Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute, which uses the collective resources of local colleges to accelerate the development of technology companies. The Spokane Area Workforce Development Council administers employment and training programs for local economically disadvantaged youths and adults through the Spokane City-County Employment and Training Consortium. The Council also supports local economic growth by working to improve the workforce development system.

Development Projects

In 2000, the Spokane Symphony purchased the 1931 Art Deco Fox Theater and is conducting a $28.4 renovation and restoration of the building. Development is also ongoing in the Davenport Arts District, a 10-block area adjacent to the Davenport Hotel (which was reopened in 2002 after renovations), which is filled with new and proposed galleries, restaurants, performance venues, and a jazz club. Spokane's River Park Square, a downtown redevelopment project that is considered one of the city's most ambitious in decades, has continued to expand. The 400,000-square-foot property includes two full-service restaurants; each fills 8,000 square feet and has its own entrance. The $110 million River Park Square mall is anchored by a 137,000-square-foot Nordstrom store and a 90,000-square-foot AMC Theatres multiscreen cinema.

In 2003, ground was broken for the new CenterPlace facility at the 77-acre, multi-use development Mirabeau Point in the Spokane Valley. Mirabeau Point already includes a 45,000-square-foot YMCA complex, a 37,000-square-foot cultural/senior center, a central plaza, hiking trails, an ice skating pond, and multiple park areas. Also begun in 2003 and slated for completion in 2007 is a major expansion of the Spokane Convention Center. Budgeted at $80 million total and working in phases, the renovation and construction consists of new amenities in the existing areas, and a new 100,000 square foot exhibition hall. Developers are committed to employing environmentally-friendly building techniques throughout the project, including non-toxic materials and utilizing energy efficiency, natural light, and water conservation.

Expected to begin in June 2005 the city of Spokane has set aside $117 million for street improvements over a 10-year period. The project will repair about 110 miles of residential streets and arterials throughout Spokane.

Economic Development Information: Economic Development Council, 801 West Riverside, Suite 302, Spokane, WA 99201; telephone (800)SPOKANE; email edc@EDC.Spokane.net.

Commercial Shipping

More than 30 air freight companies operate facilities at Spokane International Airport, and the Burlington Northern and Union Pacific railroads also serve the city. Many motor freight concerns operate regularly scheduled trucks in and out of Spokane.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

A large, experienced work force is available in Spokane; about 80 percent of workers are native Washingtonians. The health and service industries enjoy strong employment outlooks, as does manufacturing. Seasonal employment at harvest time is always available.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Spokane metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of non-agricultural labor force: 199,700

Number of workers employed in . . .

mining and construction: 11,600

manufacturing: 17,200

transportation, trade, and public utilities: 41,000

information: 3,000

financial activities: 12,600

professional and business services: 20,800

education and health services: 33,000

leisure and hospitality: 18,200

other services: 8,900

government: 33,600

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $18.27 (2004 annual statewide average)

Unemployment rate: 7.1% (February 2005)

Spokane: Economy

Largest employers Number of employees
Fairchild Air Force Base 5,616
Sacred Heart Medical Center 3,232
U.S. Federal Government 3,174
Spokane School District 81 3,126
State of Washington 2,878

Cost of Living

The following is a summary of data regarding key cost of living factors for the Spokane area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $255,323

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 102.8 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: None

State sales tax rate: 6.5% (food and prescription drugs are exempt)

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 2%

Property tax rate: Averages $14.94 in city, $14.21 in county, per $1,000 of assessed value (2005)

Economic Information: Economic Development Council, 801 West Riverside, Suite 302, Spokane, WA 99201; telephone (800)SPOKANE; email edc@EDC.Spokane.net. Department of Revenue, Taxpayer Information and Education Section, PO Box 47478, Olympia, WA 98504-7478; telephone (800)829-1040; email Communications@dor.wa.gov. Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce, 801 West Riverside Avenue, Spokane, WA 99201; telephone (509)624-1393; fax (509)747-0077; email info@chamber.spokane.net