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 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.

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