First appeared in The Coeur d’Alene Press, December 12, 2019 at 5:00 am | By MIKE PATRICK Staff Writer
COEUR d’ALENE — Same ‘ol-same ‘ol looks pretty sweet.
Speaking to a packed house of 215 business people and community leaders Wednesday, economist Dr. John Mitchell said there’s little reason to expect the nation’s unprecedented 126-month expansion to come to a screeching halt. What we saw in 2019 should look a lot like what we see in 2020, he said.
In his annual Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce breakfast address at the Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn, the veteran fiscal forecaster predicted economic growth might slow a bit but continue heading in the right direction.
“The things we traditionally worry about at the moment are not happening,” he said.
Sure, there’s some uncertainty with impeachment proceedings, Mitchell acknowledged. Angst ebbs and flows with international trade and tariff talk, too.
It’s always possible the market could see a big dip, or threats emerge to upend the tax system or the medical system. And of course, Mitchell had to raise the specter of a black swan event — some disaster that nobody sees until after it’s already happened — no matter how unlikely.
“I worry about… people’s willingness to take chances and invest,” he conceded. “That’s a threat.”
But having covered the big scary stuff, Mitchell’s forecast had a calming effect.
“The things that preceded many other recessions don’t seem to be there,” he said.
Nationally, Mitchell pointed to GDP slowing slightly next year but strong employment and low inflation propelling a steady course.
Close to home, Mitchell unwrapped a Christmas package of economic positivity.
He cited Idaho’s 2.1 percent population growth as No. 1 in the nation, tied with Nevada.
Idaho’s job growth for the year through October was a sturdy 2 percent, good for eighth in a nation where all 50 states showed job growth in 2019. Mitchell charted Kootenai County job growth for three years, from October 2016 through October 2019, and tallied 8.4 percent growth, with construction and leisure/hospitality leading the way.
The local housing picture is especially bright — if you’re looking at the value of your property rather than your tax bill, anyway. According to Mitchell’s research, the Coeur d’Alene metro area had the fourth highest housing appreciation rate in the country as of the year’s third quarter. Chico, Calif., rising from the ashes of the Paradise Fire, led the way with a 14.25 percent appreciation rate. Boise (11.81) was second, followed by Idaho Falls (11.33) and Coeur d’Alene (10.85). Demonstrating the growth power of the Northwest, Spokane was fifth in the nation (9.36).
Growth is also visible throughout Kootenai County, as building permits attest. Mitchell said residential building permits are up 11.5 percent year over year.
“The forces that have been driving the county would seem to be intact,” he said, pointing to confident employed consumers, an aging population in the higher cost areas, the many attributes of the region, and simply rising with the tide of continued national economic expansion.
He’s got some numbers to back that all up. Looking at 2010 through 2018, Mitchell showed a positive population change in Kootenai County. Making babies was responsible for 3,822 new faces, while net migration brought in 19,111 during that period, he said. That added up to a 16.6 percent increase, well ahead of Idaho’s strong 11.9 percent population growth.
Growth is evident not just in bodies but bank accounts. According to Mitchell’s research, Kootenai County residents’ personal income was up 7 percent last year. He noted that the big uptick isn’t all from hard-working employees getting raises or better-paying jobs, either: dividends, interest, rents and transfer payments are boosting the bankroll of retirees.
“Old people save a lot,” he said.
Worries over deficit spending haven’t slowed the overall economy, and the dreaded “R” word has somehow been held at bay. Mitchell called “recession headlines very common in 2019,” but said the warnings are often a reflection of political rather than economic interests.
“I always have in the back of my mind, ‘What’s the person’s agenda?’” he said. “The recession just keeps getting pushed further and further out.”
With some effort, the economist who has been making similar presentations for 47 years strained to see dark clouds, let alone black swans, on the 2020 horizon. However, all economic expansions end sometime.
“I don’t think it’s going to be in 2020,” Mitchell said, “but it’s out there somewhere.”
The following projects, initiatives, and economic developments are making news in eastern Washington and northern Idaho. This release is distributed by the Inland Northwest Economic Alliance on behalf of its regional partners.
COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — StanCraft Boat Co. is expanding from manufacturing watercraft to offering aviation services with the addition of a $15 million StanCraft Jet Center at Coeur d’Alene Airport-Pappy Boyington Field. Construction on the new 85,000-square-foot FBO began in August east of Empire Aerospace, and the project is expected to be completed by May 2020. Coeur d’Alene-based Eric Hedlund Design is the architecture firm that designed the structure, and Hayden-based Young Construction Group of Idaho Inc. is the contractor. The 40,000-square-foot Southfield Aviation building will be used as a maintenance facility after the new jet center is built. In addition to refitting jet interiors, StanCraft Jet Center will offer jet refueling, conference rooms, waiting and pilot areas, and a tenant improvement space for offices. Contact Robb Bloem, StanCraft President, for more information.
Dauntless Air, an aerial firefighting company, relocated its aircraft maintenance operations to the Coeur d’Alene airport this year. Dauntless protects people, land and property from the devastation of wildfires through advanced aerial fire suppression tactics in Minnesota, Washington, Alaska, Idaho, North Carolina, California and Oregon. Learn more about the company at www.Dauntlessair.com or contact Brett L’Esperance, Dauntless CEO.
PULLMAN, WA — Washington State University’s Cosmic Crisp apple will hit the fruit stands on December 1, a project over 20 years in the making. Cosmic Crisp was developed specifically for Washington’s climate and growing conditions. WSU researchers combined the disease-resistant Enterprise with the Honeycrisp, known for its crispness, juicy sweetness, and hint of tartness. There are 12 million trees planted in the state of Washington and this year 450,000 boxes of Cosmic Crisp apples will be available. Washington apple growers will have exclusive rights to the Cosmic Crisp for 10 years. Washington produces 65-75 percent of the nation’s apples, yet this is the first variety that originated from the state. Contact Proprietary Variety Management for more information.
HAYDEN, Idaho — Roller coaster manufacturer, Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC), continues its Six Flags success with the innovative Jersey Devil Coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey. Known as a single-rail coaster, riders in one-passenger cars will straddle a 15.5-inch-wide steel, monorail track and navigate a twisted course that will include multiple inversions, climbing 130 feet and hitting a top speed of 58 mph along 3.000 feet of monorail track. RMC has grown to 115 full-time employees and 5 manufacturing facilities, totaling more than 75,000 square feet. See USA Today’s article for more.
DAVENPORT, WA – Washington Department of Commerce, USDA, and Washington State University Medical School hosted a daylong workshop with 100 community leaders and residents from Eastern Washington to address the broadband law approved this year by Washington state lawmakers. A new statewide broadband office will approve and distribute grant and loan funds to local governments, tribes, public, private and nonprofit entities working together to expand broadband. The program has $21.5 million available, including $14.5 million for loans and $7 million for grants. The state will prioritize funding to public-private partnerships, with a focus on underserved areas in the state. Contact Margie at Lincoln County EDC for more information.
MARIES, Idaho — City officials and housing developers, Troy Lozano, are projecting construction of new homes in Ragan’s Addition to begin in early 2020. Lozano purchased 21 lots in the addition and plans to partner with Julian Construction to build single family homes. Updates can be found at greystonehill.com.
OTHELLO, WA — McCain Foods broke ground on a 170,000-square-foot expansion, a project that will cost $300 million and is scheduled for competition in 2021. The expansion to the frozen potato products line is estimated to bring about 180 new jobs to Othello and is expected to be the biggest manufacturer of frozen potato products in the world. Dale McCarthy, McCain Foods, said Othello’s proximity to West Coast shipping makes it a crucial location for the company. “Othello is very strategic for us.” Adams County officials are working with McCain Foods and the state to develop a recruitment process and support. They plan to conduct a countywide housing needs assessment to confirm housing needs and development solutions. Email Adams County Economic Development Council for more info.
MOSCOW, Idaho — Northwest River Supplies (NRS) began operations from its new facility on South Blaine Street on November 5. The newly constructed 155,000-square-foot building includes a warehouse, customer service center, corporate offices and a 3,500-square-foot NRS flagship retail store. The $13.5 million project received a tax break from Latah County that exempts 75 percent of the increase in the site’s value from property taxes for five years, ending in 2023. Read more here.
PULLMAN and COLFAX, Wash. — Two Inland Northwest businesses were recognized through the Washington Secretary of State’s Corporations for Communities Award Program. Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, of Pullman, was recognized for donating and raising funds for local charities and providing money for employees to donate to the charity of their choice. Bunyard Automotive, of Colfax, was honored for repairing vehicles at little to no cost for families in need. Both businesses were awarded the National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion for their efforts in their communities. The full press release is here.
OSBURN, Idaho — The city dedicated the newly completed Shoshone Fire District #1 facility, which was awarded a $500,000.00 block grant earlier this year. The new 10,000-square-foot facility is a significant fire, training, and emergency services upgrade for the region. Contact Silver Valley EDC for more information.
LEWISTON, Idaho — With a start-up $839,809 grant from the National Science Foundation, the Northwest Intermountain Manufacturing (NIMA) Association has created a pilot project to train high school students in fabrication and machining. In partnership with Lewis-Clark State College, the Clearwater Economic Development Association, the University of Idaho and 16 school districts, the program gives students a solid skill set and educational background in manufacturing so they can be ready to start work right after high school for local companies. The first group of students will complete the program in 2020. See Idaho Department of Labor article here.
LIBERTY LAKE, WA — In response to a gap in the city’s flex office market, Liberty Lake Coworking LLC will open Jan. 2 at 23505 E. Appleway. The 4,600-square-foot space will have 11 private offices, six semi-private spaces, and open table space. The space will also feature booths for private calls, two semi-private meeting booths, a podcast and media room, access to high-speed fiber internet, and free parking. More details can be found here.
POST FALLS, Idaho — Construction on Idaho’s fourth state veterans’ home is expected to start next year. The 82,000 square foot project is to be built in Riverbend Commerce Park in Post Falls and will have 64 beds. The home will be built on 7.3 acres donated by the Jacklin Land Co. in Riverbend Commerce Park on Post Falls’ west side. It is adjacent to BioPol Laboratory and Buck Knives. See the full article here.
SPOKANE, WA — The Toolbox manufacturing incubator expanded to 17,000 square feet in a recent move to Logan Neighborhood. Anchored in the space is Vestis, which manufactures specially designed commercial awnings and canopies. The Toolbox continues to serve as collaborative space where established companies and business mentors share expertise, ideas, tools, and equipment with manufacturing startup and entrepreneurs. The Toolbox is overseen by nonprofit Spokane Create. Read full article here.
On December 4, the Edward Lowe Foundation and Washington Department of Commerce will lead businesses through the basics of Thrive!, a new state program that helps second-stages businesses to increase revenue, streamline operations, and expand into new markets. Contact Susan Joseph Nielsen for more information about Thrive!
POST FALLS, Idaho— Northwest Specialty Hospital completed a $4.5 million addition to include an Endoscopy Center and two additional operating rooms. The 15,000-square-foot addition brings to eight the number of operating rooms for patient surgery. The Endoscopy Center, a 8,650-square-foot addition to the hospital, features two procedure rooms, one exam room and eight preoperative and post-anesthesia care unit bays. See company news release for more information.
Inland Northwest Economic Alliance (INEA) is a consortium of fourteen economic development agencies representing fifteen counties in the North Idaho/Eastern Washington region. The collaborative effort is aimed at building economic growth through enhancing the brand recognition of the Inland Northwest and its communities and showcasing its business value.
When your company earns its keep by providing location data to site selectors, economic developers and others, it stands to reason that other people are going to pay close attention anytime your firm engages in a site search of its own.
That was exactly the case when Moscow, Idaho–based Emsi announced July 26 that it was expanding its footprint in Northern Idaho with a new headquarters. The campus will house more than 500 Emsi employees and give the firm room to grow.
“One of the first goals for Emsi was to employ 50 people earning over $50,000 because good jobs in our town drive prosperity for everyone,” said Andrew Crapuchettes, CEO of Emsi. “Through striving to bless our customers, employees and shareholders, Emsi has enjoyed market success and is now privileged to be a part of Strada Education Network. With Strada’s backing and the crucial support of many people in Idaho, we are grateful and excited to build this signature building in Moscow.”
Emsi was launched in Moscow — 80 miles (130 km.) south of Spokane and 300 miles (480 km.) north of Boise — in 2000, as Economic Modeling Specialists International. When the firm moved to its current downtown facility in early 2014, it had 92 employees. Today, Emsi employs more than 200 people, with about 160 working in Moscow.
Emsi anticipates a move-in date of late 2020. The expansion will allow the firm to add more software developers, engineers, data scientists, economists, sales executives and other personnel. By remaining in Moscow, Emsi retains access to a talent pipeline coming out of the University of Idaho, Washington State University and New Saint Andrews College. More than 550 students with the skills required for Emsi’s key occupations graduate each year from these schools.
Happiness is Hard to Quantify
Emsi CFO Timothy van den Broek says that talent and quality of life convinced the firm that the best place for the new headquarters was Moscow. “We’ve been very happy with Moscow as a place to operate for 20 years,” he says. “It is our town. Our employees mostly live here, and their families live here. Within 10 miles, we have three colleges that all produce a good number of high-caliber graduates.”
But it’s not just about skills, says van den Broek.
“We hire people of great character,” he adds. “Moscow is largely an immigrant community of transplants from across the nation and around the world. I am a family man. I have a wife and five kids. I could not imagine a better situation.”
Tax reimbursement incentives, mostly employment-related incentives, were helpful in getting this deal done, he says, noting what he calls a “fantastic relationship” with the state, county and city. Quality of life is the icing on the cake, says the CFO, who is originally from England. “We have a vibrant restaurant scene in Moscow. The jazz festival brings a good amount of people to the region,” he notes. “My commute is a 10-minute walk. If I drive, it’s one minute.”
The new space could accommodate a workforce of 1,000 people or more, he says. “If we do our job well and help our customers grow, we’ll continue growing ourselves. We are in this for the long haul.”
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.
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.”