Call it Spokane’s inferiority complex - business leaders are surprisingly slow to tout the area’s chief advantages for attracting outside companies, a consulting firm says.
Low energy costs, the community colleges, an underemployed work force and SIRTI are among the competitive advantages that leaders tend to forget when they sell Spokane to prospective companies, according to the Pace Group, a Mississippi-based company that was hired to study the Spokane economy and its future.
Instead, they rely too heavily on intangible characteristics such as quality of life and work ethic.
This lapse reflects a city suffering from an identity crisis and lack of focus at a time when competition to recruit companies nationally is at an all-time high, Pace officials said in interviews Wednesday. That could hurt Spokane’s chances to woo more companies such as Egghead Software, which recently agreed to move its headquarters from the Seattle area to Spokane.
“You don’t understand what you have,” said Senior Vice President Steve Jenkins, who has met with more than 70 business leaders in the past month as part of a $60,000 economic study.
“The community is a hidden gem that needs to be polished. You can’t sell the community to a business unless the community feels good about itself.”
To brighten the gem, Jenkins said Spokane needs a good public relations plan. That would include more positive news in the media and qualified business people taking positions in government.
“They should be running for public office,” said Jenkins, whose company is being paid by Momentum ‘95 and the Washington State Employment Security Department. “There’s phenomenal private leadership in this community.”
In addition to a change in government, Pace said there is a critical need in Spokane to create more jobs and increase per capita income. Per capita income in the county is $12,375, lower than the Northwest average of $13,266.
The potential for change is there, however.
In a speech Wednesday before 225 members of the Spokane Area Economic Development Council, Pace President John Lovorn said that Spokane is a friendly, progressive community that has all the ingredients for continued economic success.
Lovorn said his company in September will release findings and recommendations for improving the Spokane economy and recruitment of new business.
The report also will analyze proposals to combine some functions of the EDC with the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce and Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.