“The land of opportunity”— that is the promise of the United States. And one of the reasons the country has been able to deliver on that promise is that it has been able to develop the talent it needs to create wealth and to adapt to ever-changing economic realities.

— Martha Laboissiere and Mona Mourshed, McKinsey & Company

In rural regions, where populations are more dispersed and farther from major job centers, a well-trained workforce faces different challenges than those in metro areas, where people are closer to education, training, and employment opportunities.

The need, for both business and society, is clear: we need to better prepare people without college degrees for jobs with promising career paths.

KTEC students during Health Care and Natural Sciences Day at NIC

The Inland Northwest boasts 18 universities and colleges within an 80-mile radius of Spokane, accounting for nearly 90,000 students who study at area colleges and universities.

Building the talent pool for the region requires a dependable source of employees who are well-trained, ready to work and valued for loyalty. The region’s public and private higher education institutions work collaboratively with one another and the business community to ensure a workforce is developed to meet the needs of the Inland Northwest’s residents and industry.

Our region offers a wide variety of daytime and evening classes in the classroom, online course, and via correspondence.

Dream It. Do It. High School students from Idaho and Lewis Counties visiting with area employers

According to a 2019 Federal Reserve System article titled, Strengthening Workforce Development in Rural Areas, declines in prime working-age individuals and closing businesses, highlight the need for strategies that address both labor demand and supply issues.

“For these skills-oriented policies to be effective, community leaders must also implement strategies to retain skilled workers and to address nonskill barriers to work faced by vulnerable populations. Community amenities, quality job policies, transportation systems, affordable housing, health care, child care, and broadband should all be aligned with workforce development efforts.”

— Ashley Bozarth and Whitney M. Strifler, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta


There is no one solution to tackle all of the workforce issues that communities face. Take a look at the region’s offerings:



An in-depth study of health needs and opportunities for communities in a nine-county region was recently released by Innovia Foundation. The Needs and Opportunity Assessment report summarizes key health and wellness indicators for the Southeast Washington, Northeast Oregon and North Central Idaho region. This study will provide information for public agencies and nonprofit groups in matching services to the most pressing needs in the region.

The comprehensive assessment was conducted in partnership with the Lewis Clark Valley Healthcare (LCVH) Foundation. Dr. John Rusche, chair of the LCVH Foundation’s Board of Community Advisors noted that, “this assessment will help our not-for-profit partners understand the deeper needs in our area as well as help the Lewis Clark Valley Healthcare Foundation in prioritizing the hundreds of requests for funding. As a great beneficial side effect is the drawing together of communities around those opportunities identified. The needs are many, and with cooperation there is a better chance of success.”

To ensure that the assessment provided a complete picture of needs in the region, the project included 1) a community survey sent to a random sample of over 8,400 households in this area, 2) an online ‘data hub’ permitting users to access and analyze thousands of community indicators, and 3) a series of nine community forums attended by hundreds of participants in the fall of 2019.

Shelly O’Quinn, CEO of Innovia Foundation, stressed the importance of this multi-pronged approach. “The holistic nature of this assessment allowed us to hold meaningful community conversations based on data and topics that were relevant to community members.” O’Quinn said, “The feedback from residents will be invaluable in guiding community funding decisions.”

According to Mason Burley, Director of Research at Innovia Foundation, the assessment covered a wide range of topics, but also found specific gaps related to economic security issues, educational opportunity, access to quality health and dental services and community development. Dozens of community groups assisted in this year-long assessment efforts, and additional funding support for the work was provided by Idaho Community Foundation, Avista Foundation and Premera Social Impact.

Full Report
Report Appendices
Supplement #1 – Whitman County Survey
Supplement #2 – Wallowa County Survey

Assessment tools and survey data will remain available and open to the public on the project data hub: www.inwinsights.org.

Review article in The Spokesman-Review about this project.

Date: March 24, 2020
Time: 9:00am-2:15pm (8:30am – Networking Breakfast)
Location: CenterPlace Regional Event Center
2426 North Discovery Place
Spokane Valley, WA. 99216

Click Here for Online Registration »
Meeting Agenda and Mail-In Registration Form Click Here »

Opportunity Zones are a community development program established by Congress in 2017 to encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities. Private investment vehicles that place 90% or more of their funds into an Opportunity Zone can earn tax relief on the capital gains generated through those investments. Tax benefits increase the longer investments are in place.

An Opportunity Zone is a community nominated by the state and certified by the Treasury Department as qualifying for this program. See which communities are certified by looking at this interactive map.

For specific information on Opportunity Zones in Idaho, click here.

For specific information on Opportunity Zones in Washington, click here.

Colfax-based Nanotechnology Company Challenged By U.S. Air Force to Raise $1.5 Million to Help Crowdfund Military Research

COLFAX – A local Colfax based tribology company is set to receive a $1.5 million dollar grant from the U.S. Air Force, if it can raise the matching funds in time.

TriboTEX technology has won numerous awards, and obtained funding from a variety of institutions, including the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and NASA.

To date, the company has sold over 36,000 units worldwide. They have a range of products suitable for the smallest lawn mower engines to the largest semi truck engines.

TriboTEX applied for a Small Business Innovation Research program through AFWERX, in order to obtain access to the defense market. AFWERX is a United States Air Force program with the goal of fostering a culture of innovation within the service. Encompassing a number of programs supported with relatively small amounts of funding, the initiative is intended to circumvent bureaucracy and engage new entrepreneurs in Air Force programs.

The U.S. Air Force has challenged the TriboTEX team to raise up to $1.5 million for matched funding, which is necessary to scale the business operation and produce more products for military testing. TriboTEX is working with AFWERX to test TriboTEX products in military equipment. The TriboTEX team plans to raise the money necessary to fulfill their grant requirements through crowdfunding, by launching a Kickstarter campaign that went live today, for the company’s latest nanotechnology product, “TriboTEX Transmission.”

TriboTEX Transmission uses the familiar two-sided nanoparticles specifically designed for automatic transmissions. The nanoparticles reduce friction, which prevent accelerated wear, lower temperature and noise, and extend the life of the transmission. Transmissions with TriboTEX will last longer, potentially saving thousands in expensive repairs.

Currently, the Department of Defense spends millions of taxpayer dollars in maintenance costs. TriboTEX is aiming to save Americans millions by preserving equipment used by the military. “Helicopter gear boxes are limited in flight time, and longevity is critical for safety of the flight,” stressed CTO Rudenko, who says the product will work for anyone who wants to improve the functionality of their transmission, whether its a 2002 Toyota Prius or a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.