This article first appeared on March 20, 2019 in The Spokesman-Review. By staff writer Amy Edelen.

Affordability, opportunities drive placement among top 100 nationally

Spokane again has made a national ranking – this time as a top place to live for its affordability, job opportunities and recreational options. The Lilac City is ranked No. 41 out of 100 cities in a list of Top 100 Best Places to Live in 2019 by Livability. com, which evaluated more than 1,000 cities based on economics, housing, amenities, education and health care.

“The cities on this year’s list represent the best of the best when it comes to affordability and opportunity,” Livability.com Editor-in-Chief Winona Dimeo-Ediger said in a statement. “These 100 cities are not just fantastic places to live in terms of their amenities, education, health care and infrastructure, they are places where young people can build amazing careers and communities.”

Spokane earned high marks for its parks, lakes, museums, and music and food scenes as well as accessibility to five universities and two medical schools, which boosted the city’s education score.

Affordability and job opportunities were top answers among 1,000 millennials surveyed nationally to determine what matters most to them when deciding to relocate, according to Livability. com.

The website indicated all cities on the Top 100 Places to Live list have median home values below $250,000. The median home price in Spokane is $239,900, according to February data from the Spokane Association of Realtors.

Spokane has the most affordable housing of all large counties in state, according to the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington.

“Spokane is in very good position as far as affordability and sales price,” said Rob Higgins, executive officer of the Spokane Association of Realtors.

Higgins said that while housing inventory is low in Spokane, it’s expected to pick up in the next year, following a national trend of increased inventory in larger cities, such as Seattle.

Pullman and Richland ranked No. 86 and No. 30, respectively, on Livability.com’s list, while Boise topped the list as the best place to live. Moscow made the list at No. 60.

Spokane has been featured on several national lists during the past year, including “Cities on the Rise” by National Geographic Traveler magazine and “Best Foodie Cities in America,” by WalletHub.

Agreement provides renewable energy intended to offset higher priced market purchases and fossil-fuel generation  

SPOKANE, Wash. – March 19, 2019: Avista, through a request for proposal issued in June 2018, has selected to purchase power generated by the proposed Rattlesnake Flat Wind project in Adams County, Washington.

Rattlesnake Flat Wind, a wind energy facility permitted and being developed by renewable energy developer Clearway Energy Group (“Clearway”), will provide Avista with approximately 50 average megawatts of renewable energy, or as much as 144 megawatts of nameplate wind capacity, under a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with deliveries beginning in 2020. The PPA provides Avista with additional renewable energy, capacity and environmental attributes, which will offset higher priced market purchases. The PPA aligns with Avista’s 2017 Integrated Resource Plan which identifies that the utility will consider acquiring additional resources if such resources have lower long-term cost than electric market alternatives.  Avista expects to recover the cost of the power purchased through its retail rates.

“Recent market changes, including reductions in the cost of wind power facilities and tax incentives that remain in effect, have combined to make this an excellent time to acquire long-term output from a cost-effective wind resource, which has the added benefit of being located in our service territory,” said Jason Thackston, Senior Vice President of Energy Resources for Avista. “Rattlesnake Flat will help Avista meet its goal of providing reliable energy to our customers at a reasonable cost, while bringing even more renewable energy to our region, now and in the future.”

“We’ve been closely working with key stakeholders in Adams County, developing partnerships with landowners, businesses and local government to enable this project, and entering into this long term partnership with Avista is a very exciting next step,” said Benjamin Fairbanks, Senior Director of Wind Development at Clearway. “We’re proud that Rattlesnake Flat will be a source of home-grown renewable energy for the state of Washington and for Avista’s customers for many years to come.”

The wind farm will be the largest renewable energy facility in Adams County with the capacity to generate enough clean, renewable energy to power about 37,600 of Avista’s customers’ homes. Situated on 20,000 privately owned acres near Lind, WA, Rattlesnake Flat will tie into Avista’s electric system via Avista’s Lind/Washtucna transmission line.

SOURCE: Avista Corporation

first posted in the National Governor’s Association via Medium, March 8, 2019.

The Creative Sector: A Proven Economic Catalyst for Rural America

Rural regions contain some of our nation’s most iconic landscapes and cherished heritage, yet many of them are struggling with persistent economic obstacles. Rural America is contending with the outmigration of young and skilled workers, low levels of educational attainment, infrastructure needs (both physical and digital), rising poverty rates, barriers to health care and poor health outcomes and problems related to an evolving economy ― especially the loss of industry.

While the overall U.S. economy has rebounded from the most recent recession, rural areas have not shared equally in the gains. In spite of facing similar problems, some rural areas have prospered since the Great Recession: They experienced population growth, earnings growth, higher household incomes and the ability to attract and retain workers.

The “secret sauce” for those prospering rural areas is their ability to leverage their creative sector assets to catalyze economic and workforce development initiatives in those rural areas. An extensive body of research by economists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Endowment for the Arts has found:

When these principles are applied within a state’s existing policy framework, the steps can lift employment, wages and the quality of place in rural areas.

The action guide features numerous successful high-profile examples of states, regions and rural communities that have become more economically resilient and sustainable through creative sector initiatives. The Montana Artrepreneur Program, for example, expands entrepreneurial opportunities for rural visual artists by providing personal coaching and other business and marketing training over 10 months. Artists who received certification through the program between 2009 and 2014 experienced, on average, a 650 percent net sales increase and an 87 percent increase in out-of-state sales.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is promoting creative entrepreneurship by providing access to “maker” equipment, such as 3D printers, through rural libraries. This is intended to help strengthen the maker culture in rural areas and expand the libraries’ roles as anchor organizations for economic development. The libraries are supported by community action teams who are reaching out to residents and offering training.

States can similarly encourage rural community colleges to serve as anchors for creativity-based economic growth. Sheridan, a city in rural northern Wyoming, has been beefing up its creative economic development for more than a decade. It started by collaborating with the Northern Wyoming Community College District to commission a cultural sector inventory and form a local Creative Economies Council. The Wyoming Arts Council funded the community college district’s theater and dance program organizations, which gradually became prominent parts of the local asset portfolio. The state also contributed to funding the redevelopment of a Performing Arts and Education Center affiliated with the local college ― all to the benefit of the surrounding rural region.

Every state has rural areas, including some that we don’t normally think about as being rural, such as New York and Maryland. In New York, interagency coordination has been the key to providing grants focusing on workforce development incorporating the arts. The state’s Regional Economic Councils (REDCs), through the New York State Council on the Arts, are providing $5 million to support projects using the arts to foster workforce readiness and development. Local organizations can apply to develop career-training programs in artistic fields, including internships and apprenticeships in collaboration with high schools, community colleges and four-year colleges. Also, grants for large capital improvement projects through the Arts and Culture Facilities Improvement Grant Program are similarly being offered through the REDCs. The projects are intended to promote accessibility, stability and sustainability of cultural arts facilities and strengthen tourism and business development statewide ― “including in rural communities where such investments can be particularly impactful.” In 2018, the program awarded $20 million for capital improvement projects, and another $10 million is planned in 2019.

Further, some states have designated or certified creative districts that support workforce development. For example, in 2016, Maryland’s 24 state-designated Arts and Entertainment Districts supported more than 8,500 jobs, which collectively yielded $267 million in wages, $63.2 million in local and state tax revenue and almost $856 million in state economic output. Today, Maryland has 26 such districts.

The Next Generation Initiative headquartered in rural Iowa is a collaboration between the Art of the Rural and the Rural Policy Research Institute at the University of Iowa to strengthen connections among the arts, public policy and community and economic development. The Initiative’s web-based Digital Learning Commons and Exchange features how-to material on rural “creative placemaking” which occurs when arts organizations and community development practitioners deliberately integrate the arts and culture into community revitalization work and engage partners from a range of sectors, such as agriculture and food, and policy areas such as economic development, community development, housing and workforce development.

NGA’s forthcoming action guide, Rural Prosperity through the Arts and Creative Sector: A Rural Action Guide for Governors and States, outlines principles, process steps and further examples that constitute an overall Systems Change Framework for rural America based on the creative sector. The Systems Change Framework is organized according to five key roles for governors and states: providing leadership; capitalizing on cultural assets; building the state’s infrastructure for creative partnerships with other policy areas; developing local talent with creative skills and creating an environment friendly to investment and innovation. The guide will be released March 12, 2019. Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #ruralarts.

This article first appeared in the Spokane Journal of Business, February 28 2019. By Mike McClean.

Chicago-based Boeing Co. is signaling it likely will delay announcing until next year its much anticipated new aircraft line referred to as the new middle-market airplane, or more informally the 797, says Larry Krauter, Spokane International Airport CEO.

That delay could work to the advantage of Washington state’s efforts to convince Boeing to manufacture the plane within the state and quite possibly bolsters Spokane’s case that a significant share of the 797 manufacturing operations could be based here, Krauter says.

Krauter was appointed recently to the governor’s Choose Washington New Middle-Market Airplane Executive Council, which is tasked with convincing Boeing to choose Washington state for the design, production, and final assembly of the all-new aircraft. He’s also the chairman of the West Plains-Airport Area Public Development Authority, a tax revenue-sharing agency formed jointly by the city of Spokane, Spokane County, and Spokane International Airport to fund infrastructure to promote economic growth.

Though still early in the process, Spokane International Airport has developed a sketch that Spokane County Commissioner Al French describes as “what a 1 million-square-foot Boeing facility could look like.”

French also is a member of the public development authority board.

Todd Mielke, president and CEO of economic development organization Greater Spokane Inc., says such a facility could be the hub for thousands of good-paying direct and support jobs, including fabricators, machinists, welders, maintenance and operation personnel, administrators and managers, engineers, information technology professionals, and warehouse workers.

Boeing announced at the 2017 Paris Air Show that it was studying a new airplane design that would fill a market niche between its 737 line and its larger, long-haul 787 Dreamliner. The 797 aircraft would seat 220 to 270 passengers and have a range of about 5,200 nautical miles, the company said.

By comparison, Boeing’s 737 MAX series, its latest iteration of the 737, seats 138 to 230 passengers and has a range of up to 3,800 miles.

Krauter says Boeing is going through a diligent process to define the 797 to best fit customer needs for a middle-market plane.

“We’re aware of significant market challenges,” he says. “Some carriers are looking for twin-aisle aircraft with the economics of a single-aisle aircraft. Some carriers would like to carry more cargo and some less cargo.”

Due to anticipated competition from other plane makers for the market niche Boeing wants to fill with the 797, Krauter says Boeing likely isn’t in a position to defer the envisioned production date, and that creates potential advantages for Washington state and the Spokane area.

“I sense that they aren’t going to be able to slide that (market date) further out,” he says. “I think Boeing is going to have a more compressed time frame.”

That means the manufacturing site selection could be rapid once Boeing announces a decision to build the 797.

“Boeing is going to have to take advantage of existing infrastructure, both intellectual and physical,” Krauter says.

He contends Spokane has a compelling 1,200-acre site on the west side of the airport, and infrastructure improvements, including a rail spur and a truck-rail transfer facility, are planned or under way within the Public Development Authority district.

Also within the district, federally designated opportunity and trade zones could provide economic development incentives to enhance the manufacturing supply chain for such a major aircraft production, he says.

Krauter contends Boeing could bring in raw materials and subassemblies and manufacture a flyaway product at one potentially shovel-ready site here.

“From what I know, there’s only one megasite that can really work if Boeing wants the supply chain very closely located,” he says. “This aircraft has to be very economical. I believe Spokane has an incredible value proposition to be made to help drive costs out of that product.”

Krauter replaces Robin Toth, formerly of GSI, on the state’s NMA council, which falls under the purview of the Washington state Department of Commerce. Toth is now the state’s aerospace sector lead for the Commerce. She couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.

Gov. Jay Inslee also recently appointed former Washington State University Spokane chancellor and former state Senate majority leader Lisa Brown to be the Commerce department director, adding more Spokane roots to the department.

“I’m encouraged by that,” Krauter says. “Commerce is in the process of becoming a better partner for Spokane and a better department of Eastern Washington. It’s truly looking at a ‘one Washington’ approach to its mission.”

GSI’s Mielke says more than 130 companies supporting the global aerospace industry are operating in the Spokane area, making this the fifth largest aerospace cluster in the U.S.

He says many of those companies are part of Boeing’s supply chain.

French says one such company, Kent, Wash.-based Exotic Metals Forming Co., plans to expand in two phases on its 57-acre Airway Heights campus within the Public Development Authority’s jurisdiction.

Each addition will be similar in scope to the 150,000-square-foot plant the company built there in 2015, according to environmental planning documents.

French says, “When companies like that part of the supply chain are looking to expand in Spokane, that’s only good news. Not only does that make the case that we’re a good location, it attracts other (suppliers).”

French says the successful recruitment of Seattle-based online retailer Amazon.com Inc. within the Public Development Authority district only helps bolster Spokane’s case for a major Boeing manufacturing facility.

He says, “Now with Amazon, which is an international company, coming here, why not Boeing?”

WASHINGTON

Lisa J. Brown, Ph.D., was appointed Commerce Director by Washington Gov. Inslee and began serving the agency in February of 2019. Prior to serving as Commerce director, Brown served as chancellor of Washington State University, where she led the health science campus in Spokane.

Brown served in the Washington State Legislature from 1996 – 2013 in the Senate where she was majority leader and chaired the Rules Committee, Ways and Means Committee, and Energy, Technology and Telecommunications Committee. She served in the state House of Representatives from 1993 – 1996, where she was minority whip and minority floor leader.

She has worked extensively on economic development in Eastern Washington and on gender equity.

Brown earned her bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of Illinois and her master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from the University of Colorado in Boulder.

IDAHO

Tom Kealey is Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s appointment to serve as Director of the Department of Commerce, and began his service in January of 2019.  Kealey is co-owner of restaurant Chicago Connection and a former Morrison-Knudsen executive, and served on the Idaho Endowment Fund Investment Board under Governor Dirk Kempthorne.

A lifelong Republican and retired CPA, Kealey believes in protecting the Idaho Constitution, taxpayers money and credit rating.

Kealey earned his accounting and finance degree from the University of Washington and an MBA in Strategic Planning and Marketing from Harvard Business School.

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