An effort to create a broadbased five-year economic development plan was launched Wednesday by business and community leaders from the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area.
These leaders hope they can start implementing the “New Century Plan” by June. Between now and then, they will embark on an effort to involve all sectors of the communities in arriving at a consensus for what that plan will be.
“It is time for the community and region to move from uncertainty about the future to clarity about our direction, our goals and our outcome,” said Tom Stevenson, co-chairman of a committee of the Momentum ‘96 organization that helped shape this effort.
Stevenson, who is managing partner of McFarland & Alton, said the New Century concept is an attempt to involve the entire community in strategic planning done by groups like Momentum in the past.
He explained that Momentum is in the final year of its second five-year plan. Last year, he and Stacey Cowles, publisher of The Spokesman-Review, were named to chair a committee to consider whether Momentum should stay in business, change its focus or go away.
“After a couple of months there was a realization that this (discussion) isn’t about Momentum,” Stevenson said. “It’s about the community and what the community does next.”
Momentum’s self examination coincided with a strategic alliance of the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce, the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Spokane Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Spokane Area Economic Development Council. Each of those groups in the past had mapped economic development strategies and were looking to combine their efforts.
“There are about 10 or 12 organizations that are doing strategic planning at this time,” Cowles said. “What we are trying to do is make sure we can align those in some fashion.”
Cowles said the missing piece in all these efforts has been a broad consensus. The New Century Plan will attempt to achieve that consensus. It will be built around “six foundations for creating community competitive advantage.”
They include education, quality of life, infrastructure, economic development, government and leadership.
The group has already formed a 30-person steering committee broadly representing the Spokane and Kootenai County communities. That will be expanded to a 150-member group of “stakeholders.”
The group has hired consultant Henry Luke to conduct a series of focus groups at the neighborhood level and then use information gathered there to create the consensus plan.
While past planning efforts have focused heavily on business and political participation, this effort will go much further.
“We plan to really listen to the community about how to develop strategies that will change the way we live at the neighborhood level,” said Cheryl Steele, a representative of Spokane COPS who is a member of the steering committee.
“Economically we have to provide a foundation for us to live safely in our homes and to succeed individually so collectively we will succeed as a community in the new century,” Steele said.