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 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?”


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.


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.

This excerpt is from an article that first appeared in The Spokesman-Review, Sun., Feb. 3, 2019 at 4 a.m. By Amy Edelen and Becky Kramer.

Exotic Metals Forming LLC has submitted plans for future expansion on the West Plains.

The Kent, Washington-headquartered company specializes in aerospace sheet metal fabrication and design, working primarily with titanium and nickel alloys. Exotic Metals has a 150,000-square-foot industrial building in Airway Heights.

Company officials didn’t return calls last week, but documents filed with the city of Airway Heights indicate Exotic Metals is planning two expansions on the western portion of the 56.6 acres of property it owns at12821 W. McFarlane Road.

The first phase would be construction of a new manufacturing facility and employee parking lot, which could begin as early as this year for completion in 2020. The second phase would mirror the first expansion, but the company doesn’t have a timeline for that work.

Exotic Metals would bring on about 150 staff with each expansion phase, according to company documents.

Company officials have submitted a checklist for the planned development under Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act. Airway Heights officials have asked for additional information about traffic impacts.

Originally appeared in the Spokesman-Review, 24 January 2019. By Becky Kramer of THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW 

Education, health were key drivers in 2018, says economist

About 6,200 new jobs were created in the Spokane metropolitan area last year, reflecting the fourth year of strong regional job growth. The area includes Spokane, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties. For four years straight, the three-county area has gained more than 5,000 jobs annually.

Education and health care were drivers of job growth in 2018, said Doug Tweedy, regional labor economist for the Washington Employment Security Department. Both sectors added about 1,500 jobs last year.

Manufacturing also had a strong year, and so did professional and technical jobs. Attorneys’ offices and accountants were hiring last year, Tweedy said.

For comparison, the Spokane metro area created about 5,300 jobs in 2017.

Unemployment averaged 6 percent for the Spokane metro area in 2018, compared to 5.5 percent the year before.

Spokane County’s unemployment averaged 5.3 percent last year; Stevens County was at 7.2 percent; and Pend Oreille County at 7.3 percent.

CONTACT THE WRITER:(509) 459-5466 [email protected]

This post originally appeared on the Lincoln County Economic Development website.

(Davenport, WA, January 18, 2019) —  It was early 2016 when the Harrington PDA began to install a high speed broadband network through their downtown business district. Now three years later, that project has become a model for do-it-yourself rural internet. Last January the stakeholders in the project were invited to tell their story to the State Senate Committee for Economic Development and International Trade. This past October Harrington hosted a policy discussion with Governor Inslee’s advisor on rural broadband, John Flanagan. And Last week Harrington’s Mayor Justin Slack spoke at a press event in Olympia where the Governor announced his 2019 initiative to increase broadband access throughout the state.

Mayor Slack spoke about the PDA’s project, but he also spoke about he and his wife Heather making the decision to move from Seattle to Harrington to raise their children in a small town. The Slack’s purchased a building within the fiber network so that Justin would have the bandwidth he needed to telecommute to his job with a Seattle bank. Soon the “accidental business owners” opened The Post & Office wi-fi coffee shop in the front half of their building and a fiber-fed shared workspace in the back. The Post & Office has become the hub of the community thanks to good coffee and high-speed internet.

Commissioner Scott Hutsell also spoke at the press event in Olympia. The Commissioner is the Chair of the Public Works Board, an infrastructure planning and funding board within the Dept. of Commerce and spoke about the importance of broadband. Inslee’s proposal includes $25 million in grants and bonds for broadband infrastructure and he hopes to see the Public Works Board administer those funds. The Governor also proposes the state establish a Statewide Broadband Office to be the central broadband planning body. Washington had a broadband office from 2009 to 2014, funded by a five-year federal grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the same act that funded the NoaNet fiber project in 2012-2013. It is that NoaNet fiber that feeds Harrington’s network.