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INTEC loses main source of funding

Officials at INTEC, a 5-year-old Spokane-area economic development agency, said they’ll look at options now that the organization has lost its primary funding from the state.

Created in 2000 to spur job development for high-tech industries, the Inland Northwest Technology Education Center received $970,000 in the current two-year state budget.

The 2006-2007 state budget, which goes into effect July 1, set aside no money for INTEC. Late in the session, Spokane leaders and legislators tried but failed to win a one-year $500,000 final allocation.

INTEC Chairman John Stone said the board will meet within 30 days to consider options, including finding new money sources and whether INTEC should continue.

But losing about $1 million from a total $1.4 million budget leaves INTEC with dire choices, he said.

The board approved a plan last week allowing one of its initiatives, Connect Northwest, to spin off as an independent program. Connect Northwest, created by INTEC a year ago, is focused on linking local entrepreneurs with consultants, lenders and business experts. Its goal is job formation through networking and business assistance.

Spokane County has set aside about $200,000 for the Connect Northwest program this year with a possible additional $100,000 in the second half of 2005.

INTEC board members agreed that Connect Northwest will operate more effectively as a separate entity, Stone said.

Stone said one issue facing INTEC is what to do with about $100,000 that will remain in the agency’s bank account on July 1. That money could be given to Connect Northwest or used to reconstitute a smaller, more focused INTEC operation, he said.

“I must say I’m highly disappointed in our community leadership in allowing this kind of thing to happen, over funding for the Fox Theater and other things” that gained state money, Stone said.

The Fox Theater received $2.5 million in state money towards its renovation as the home of the Spokane Symphony.

Stone said work force training, especially in Spokane where poverty is still high, should have received more priority than cultural organizations.

“It makes me think of Marie Antoinette and ‘Let them eat cake.’ ” Stone continued. “They have $2.5 million for the Fox Theater. But money for jobs and work force training are not available.”