Business

Strong growth seen for regional economy

Spokane’s well-known economic “handicapper” predicted Wednesday that the Inland Northwest’s economy would keep pace with the state and outperform the nation in 2007.

“There’s never been a time when I have foreseen a more positive future for the local and regional economies,” said Shaun O’L. Higgins, director of sales and marketing for The Spokesman-Review. Higgins delivered his comments to an audience of 300 at the Second Annual Greater Valley Economic Outlook Conference, sponsored by the newspaper.

Higgins said economic indicators in the region are so robust, he foresees upward mobility well into 2010, the most distant year he’ll comment on.

The present alignment of three factors is buoying the region:

“An improved outlook for Washington state and ongoing growth in Idaho.

“An extraordinary period of positive, national media coverage.

“Stability in key economic sectors and among top employers.

Higgins, who has been tracking the region’s performance for more than 20 years, believes the population will continue to boom. New housing, retail shopping and building projects will bring more new residents and jobs. And national recognition will fuel continued interest in the area.

And while he expects lumber and other sectors sensitive to national housing markets to weaken, biotech, high-tech, residential real estate, construction, agriculture, retail and tourism will more than make up for any losses. New store openings should fuel employment gains, he said.

Higgins emphasized that he is not a trained economist, but rather an “economic handicapper” — a businessman who has to build budgets and raise revenue based on the analysis he shared Wednesday.

“If my forecast is wrong, you can bet I’m having a bad year at work,” he said. “And if it’s on target, I’m probably having a good one.”



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