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Spokane County postpones plan for second economic summit

Wed., April 6, 2005

After spending $25,000 in December on an economic summit, Spokane County has decided not to hold a second session for further discussion of ideas.

County Commissioner Mark Richard said Tuesday he won’t propose hosting a follow-up meeting to continue ideas generated in the first summit.

That first meeting, at the Davenport Hotel, produced a long list of strategies on boosting the regional economy.

That doesn’t mean the first session wasn’t useful, Richard said. “But it’s my view that spending another $30,000 on a second session is not the best use of that money,” he added.

Originally convened by County Commissioners Phil Harris and Kate McCaslin, the summit was supposed to develop a clearer notion of accountability for Spokane’s economic development groups.

Richard, who was elected in November, replaced McCaslin and assumed her role as commissioner in charge of economic development.

After talking to many people who attended or didn’t attend the summit, Richard concluded “we have enough economic development plans already developed. The key now is implementation.”

He said it’s not likely a second meeting will take place anytime in the next several months.

Spokane County is the largest provider of direct financial support to area economic development efforts, contributing about $400,000. Richard said the county wants to maintain that role but also wants to ensure effective, cooperative planning to create more jobs.

One idea from the summit that merits quick adoption, Richard said, is creating a regional council of government leaders to share ideas and identify common issues. “This would be one way we make sure that we all understand one another’s needs and concerns,” Richard said.

If the county agrees and gets support, the idea would be to gather representatives of the different city governments in Spokane County. Richard said the council could grow over time to include North Idaho and other parts of Eastern Washington.

The December summit drew about 300 people. One who attended, INTEC CEO Lewis Rumpler, said the session made clear that economic development isn’t a tidy task and goes beyond simply addressing job creation. The wide range of opinions expressed at the summit showed many here view the process including protection of the environment, improved transportation and a focus on sustained help to low-income neighborhoods.

Rumpler said he agreed with Richards’ conclusion that if no pressing need to reconvene exists, it didn’t make sense to continue with a second summit.


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