September 19, 2007 in Business

Spokane gets pep talk

Staff writer
 
Brian Plonka photo

Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes magazine, was the keynote speaker at the annual conference of Greater Spokane Inc.
(Full-size photo)

‘Ideation’ kicks off

Greater Spokane Inc. on Tuesday kicked off a months-long “ideation” campaign to search for the 100 best ideas to advance the Inland Northwest. The project, scheduled to end in April, calls for soliciting ideas online and through digital video interviews and raising a task force of business leaders, entrepreneurs and Inland Northwest Community Foundation representatives to select and report the 100 best concepts. The Greater Spokane Board of Trustees would then select a handful of ideas and look at how to advocate for them. Ideas may be submitted online at www.newideasnw.com.

The global economy is doing well despite negative public impressions, and Spokane may be positioned to take advantage of rapid change in business, Forbes magazine publisher Rich Karlgaard told Spokane businesspeople Tuesday.

Karlgaard addressed about 1,000 attendees of Greater Spokane Inc.’s annual meeting at the Spokane Convention Center. Greater Spokane officials lauded the fledgling organization’s progress, announcing a new initiative to solicit ideas that will advance the Inland Northwest.

“I think that you are in a great position, and I think your success over the past half decade as you emerged from the long dark night that you had in the ‘80s and early ‘90s is not a temporary renaissance, but really represents this phenomenon that, hey, you’re doing a lot of things right,” Karlgaard said. “The wind is at your back for the first time in 30 years.”

Karlgaard attributed nervousness about the economy to President Bush’s unpopularity, media bias, academic economists’ “mischief” and numerical illiteracy. But the issue that should concern people, he contended, is the pace of change in the global economy.

“We are going through a period of the greatest business-model change that any generation has ever had to contend with,” said Karlgaard, author of the 2004 book “Life 2.0: How People Across America Are Transforming Their Lives by Finding the Where of Their Happiness.”

Karlgaard asserted current high costs of living in major cities and communication advances, such as the Internet, make it possible to do business from less-expensive areas.

Forbes this year ranked Spokane No. 47 of 200 metro areas based on cost of doing business, ranking it 20 overall for the best places of business and careers based on factors such as income growth, job growth and cost of living, according to Forbes.com.

To succeed, cities need to establish a balanced mix of industries and a strong banking community, he said. They also require an entrepreneur-friendly environment, something he said Spokane has done well, and benchmarks for comparison, which Greater Spokane leaders have plans to provide. An annual comparison of Spokane to 11 other cities on factors such as business growth and education is due in November, said Rich Hadley, Greater Spokane president and CEO.

Greater Spokane formed this January, combining the Spokane Area Economic Development Council and the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce. Funded in part by more than 1,500 private-sector members, Greater Spokane seeks to foster business and workforce development, advocate public policies and promote the Spokane area.

Organization leaders touted Greater Spokane’s work to create new informational Web sites, foster home-based businesses, procure government funds and attract businesses, such as Valencia, Calif.-based Blu-ray disc manufacturer BlueRay Technologies Inc., to the area.

Wayne Williams, president and CEO of Liberty Lake-based Telect Inc., is slated to start a one-year stint as chairman of Greater Spokane’s board next month. Williams, 43, told The Spokesman-Review he will bring passion and energy to the role, along with experience competing in the global market.

Williams replaces Sterling Financial Corp. Chief Operating Officer Heidi Stanley. Betsy Cowles, chairwoman of the Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review, is scheduled to succeed him.


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