Lisa Brown, Washington Department of Commerce director, and Tom Kealey, Idaho Department of Commerce director, spoke Friday about the economies in their respective states during an Inland Northwest Partners conference at Banyan’s on the Ridge in Pullman.

Commerce Directors Lisa Brown (Wash., left) and Tom Kealey (Idaho, right) in Pullman for the Summer INP Meeting on June 7.

“I see broadband as really a significant challenge to get right,” Brown said.

“We’ve got to understand what we have and what we don’t have in order to appropriately direct investment into that middle mile and last mile,” she said. “That’s always the most challenging piece of deploying communications or telecommunications technology.”

Washington is trying to help rural areas with this problem by establishing a statewide broadband office that would coordinate grants to governments and tribes for broadband infrastructure.

Washington 9th District Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, told the Daily News in April that she and her colleagues in the House supported the legislation because it will increase competition in the internet service provider marketplace and bring better service to rural Washington.

In Idaho, Gov. Brad Little signed an executive order in May establishing the Idaho Broadband Task Force, Kealey said.

The 40-member task force this fall will bring to the governor recommendations on ways the state can improve connectivity and speeds across Idaho.

The task force will try to map existing services and gaps in broadband infrastructure, which Kealey said will paint a picture for what resources are needed in rural and urban areas.

“We want to map what we have, be able to measure what we have in terms of access as well as speeds and features and services and options,” he said.

Brown pitched another idea that may bring people and commerce to eastern Washington. In light of Microsoft and other corporations last year offering funding to build a high-speed railway from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Portland, Brown said she would like to see a similar railway that connects western Washington with eastern Washington.

Brown and Kealey highlighted some positives in Washington and Idaho economies.

Washington’s overall economy is booming, with the highest GDP growth and 10th largest economy in the country.

“If we were a country, we’d be up there with Sweden or Belgium right now,” he said.

Kealey said Idaho is near the top of the rankings in several economic categories including first in travel dollars, third in the number of people moving to the state and fourth in job growth.

The national coworking culture is now fifteen years old. Successful coworking spaces know they need to be more than just secure wifi, free coffee and meeting rooms.

“Coworking spaces have to go above and beyond to stay competitive and thrive—developing niches spaces for certain businesses (legal, fashion and beauty, blockchain, film production), offering unique experiences such as coliving or childcare, plus getting creative by opening spaces in underutilized real estate like hotel business centers or within stores.”

—Madison Maidment, COO of Coworker

Members of MosCoWork in Moscow, Idaho, have the option of renting dedicated desks or part time subscriptions.

One novel idea is an app that connects you with another local option: your neighbor’s living room. Codi, a new startup launching soon in the Bay Area of California, turns apartments and houses into temporary, affordable coworking spaces during the day.

“I used to work from home, and it’s very isolating. When you go to coffee shops, they can be very distracting. And there were no working options close by, and downtown coworking spaces are very expensive.”

—Christelle Rohaut, CEO/founder of Codi

LiquidSpace is a national online network that connects people with spaces.  Users can search for meeting rooms, coworking space, private office suites, brainstorming-ready spaces, event spaces, and, dedicated desks. Searches can be customized to neighborhoods or specific properties to be the first to know of new space availability.

The list of coworking spaces in the Inland Northwest continues to grow, as rural communities recognize the need to attract flexible workforce and encourage a startup culture.

Bonners Ferry: The Plaza Downtown
Coeur d’Alene: The Innovation Den, SpaceShare CDA, Rockford Building
Hayden: Panhandle Area Council Business Incubator
Moscow: MosCoWork
Sandpoint: The Office Sandpoint

Liberty Lake: Liberty Lake Portal
Pullman: Crimson Commerce Club (C3)
Harrington: The Post & Office
Spokane: Niche Coworking, Fellow Coworking, Level Up, Regus, and StartUp Spokane

OTHELLO, Washington – In early May, McCain Foods USA Inc., a division of McCain Foods Limited, the world’s largest producer of frozen french fries, announced a $300 million investment in its Othello, Wash., potato processing facility, significantly expanding its North American production capacity. This 170,000-square-foot expansion will add another state-of-the-art battered and conventional french fry processing line to its production capabilities in the U.S. and bring an anticipated 180 new jobs to the community. Of note, this investment also brings environmental efficiencies, reducing the facility’s carbon footprint while doubling its production, underlining McCain’s commitment to sustainability.

“This investment signals confidence in Washington, its potato growing community and its skilled workforce availability,” said Jeff DeLapp, President, North America. “It quickly follows other McCain capacity investments, helping to meet the continued increasing demand for McCain products and builds toward a strong, sustainable future in manufacturing and agriculture.”

This added capacity will require an approximate 11,000 additional acres, sourced from local potato growers in the region, and follows a similar high-capacity expansion in Burley, Idaho to service the U.S. and global markets. Construction will begin this month with anticipated completion in early 2021.


About McCain Foods USA

McCain Foods USA is a leading supplier of frozen potato and snack food products for the foodservice markets, retail grocery chains and private label brands. Everything from appetizers to sweet potato fries can be found in restaurants and supermarket freezers across the country. McCain Foods USA Inc., headquartered in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, employs 4,000 people and operates production facilities in Idaho, Maine, Nebraska, Washington and Wisconsin.

For More Information, Contact:

Eric Benderoff | [email protected]

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 24, 2019 (LIBERTY LAKE, Wash.)—Inland Northwest Partners announces their summer meeting to be held at Banyan’s on the Ridge (Palouse Ridge Golf Course) in Pullman on June 7, 9:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m., with a continental breakfast beginning at 8:30 a.m. Lisa Brown, Director of Washington State Department of Commerce and Tom Kealey, Director of Idaho Department of Commerce, will share the keynote presentation titled, “State of the States: Trends Shaping the Economies of Washington and Idaho.” Cost for INP members is $40, nonmembers is $60. To register, visit

The presentations of Directors Brown and Kealey will culminate a day of presentations under the theme of “Value-Added Agriculture: Cultivating New Jobs for Your Community”.

“Throughout the Inland Northwest Region, it’s exciting to see even more economic activity and job creation related to our strong agricultural sector from crop production, craft brewing, and agritourism.,” says Paul Kimmell, Chairman of INP Board of Directors. “It’s always great to showcase some of this success and continue to build on these opportunities.”

Other presentations include Chanel Twealt, COO for the Idaho Department of Agriculture, who will discuss agriculture as a regional economic driver; Dr. Laura Lewis, from WSU Food Systems, who will discuss the craft brewing and distilling industry; and, Adams County Economic Development Director, Stephen McFadden, who will discuss renewable energy, food processing and the cannabis industry.

Inland Northwest Partners members meet quarterly to share common economic challenges and solutions within the eastern Washington and northern Idaho region. Topics include technology, financing community initiatives, forging regional partnerships, local business expansion and retention, and job recruitment. INP often partners with local chambers or state organizations for value-added training.

Banyans on the Ridge is located at the Palouse Ridge Golf Course, 1260 NE Palouse Ridge Dr. in Pullman. For more information about becoming a member of Inland Northwest Partners, visit or email [email protected]. 


Inland Northwest Partners (INP) is a non-profit organization focused on enhancing the long-term vitality of a two-state region through its core offering of educational meetings, programs and seminars.  More than 300 business and community leaders from eastern Washington and northern Idaho are members. INP is also part of a regional marketing effort known as the Inland Northwest Economic Alliance (INEA), a consortium of fourteen economic development agencies. To learn more, visit

This article first appeared on April 9, 2019 in The Coeur d’Alene Press. By staff writer Brian Walker.

COEUR d’ALENE — Jon Ness invited two relatively new Kootenai Health employees to the podium on Monday to illustrate how health care has led the local economic development charge in recent years — and given young folks an opportunity to live here.

The Kootenai Health CEO was the keynote speaker on “Our Health Industry: The Heartbeat of New Jobs” during the Coeur d’Alene Area Economic Development Corporation’s annual meeting attended by a record 409 people at The Coeur d’Alene Resort.

Sharing their job stories up front with Ness were Caiti Bobbitt, a public affairs strategist, and Kyle Guice, a security officer.

“Personally, it’s allowed me to be there for my family in ways I never imagined,” Bobbitt said of her job. “It’s also allowed me to build relationships that will last a lifetime. Professionally, it’s given me a profound sense of community that I wouldn’t have gotten back in Phoenix.”

Guice said his position allowed him to return to Coeur d’Alene, where he was raised.

“I love the outdoors and fishing,” he said. “I’ve bounced around a bit with college basketball, so this has given me the perspective of how nice it is to be back in Coeur d’Alene.”

Bobbitt and Guice represent a trend in which the health care industry has become a major player for job creation in recent years compared to when Ness arrived in 2010. Back then, Kootenai County’s unemployment rate was 12 percent.

“There was very little construction, housing sales were low, the hospital wasn’t really growing, yet we had an unbelievable community we live in,” Ness said. “Our quality scores [at the hospital] were average. That is not a formula for growth.”

But Kootenai Health, thanks to community growth and internal culture shifts, is now roaring.

The independent, community-owned hospital grew from 1,800 jobs in 2011 to 3,300 today.

“In some ways, we can’t recruit fast enough,” said Ness, adding that the company has 230 job openings.

Idaho is among 16 states in which health care is the largest employer.

Ness said the culture shift at Kootenai Health started mandatory two-hour training sessions with all employees and the crafting of a vision statement — one that saw Kootenai Health being recognized nationally for excellence.

Ness said many employees several years ago were surprised that Kootenai Health’s ratings were at the bottom, compared to other hospitals in the region.

“That got their attention,” he said. “Maybe we weren’t as good as we thought we were.”

Ness said the culture shift, which includes annual employee engagement surveys, has led to Kootenai Health being honored nationally by several organizations.

Welcome home, kids 2

Gynii Gilliam, the economic development corporation’s president, encouraged business leaders to explore ways to piggyback onto Kootenai Health’s momentum.”This is so doable; let’s get to it. Let’s help the health care sector make an even bigger impact. We can do this.”


Ness said he believes Kootenai Health, which became an affiliate of the prestigious Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic in 2014, can continue to be an economic development force for years to come. It has a great example to follow in the Mayo Clinic, which hopes to create 50,000 new jobs over the next 25 years with investments from the public and private sectors and the health care organizations.

Ness said he believes a similar scenario can occur here, especially since this is a recreation paradise, the region’s proximity to Canada, the population of the counties are comparable; and because of Rochester’s somewhat remote location and the fact that North Idaho’s winters aren’t as harsh as Minnesota’s.

“We have fantastic physical amenities, wonderful resources and this is the most hospitable community I have ever been to,” Ness said. “Health care is growing, but what if we had a vision to do something like that?”

Gynii Gilliam, the economic development corporation’s president, encouraged business leaders to explore ways to piggyback onto Kootenai Health’s momentum.

“This is so doable; let’s get to it,” she said. “Let’s help the health care sector make an even bigger impact. We can do this.”

Idaho Gov. Brad Little said Kootenai Health’s success of providing opportunities for young families is part of the transformation from the state’s traditional roots of mining, timber and agriculture.

The average age of Kootenai Health employees is 41.

Little said North Idaho’s proximity to Canada, recreation and clean air and water also opens economic development possibilities.

“We need to create an atmosphere where people want to stay in Idaho,” Little said. “Strong families are what we are in Idaho and what people look for when they come here.”