In 1999, Spokane civic leaders went into panic mode when a national magazine ranked the city 161 out of 162 cities in terms of business climate.
Those city leaders had a happier story to brag about on Wednesday, as Forbes Magazine placed Spokane ninth on its annual ranking of best places to do business.
“What this means, really, is that we’ve risen as an economy,” said Rich Hadley, president of Greater Spokane Incorporated.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” he added.
A year ago, Spokane scored 20th on the magazine scorecard, which tracks several economic factors, including job growth, educational attainment and the cost of doing business.
Spokane’s best score was for its cost of doing business; it was ranked the 35th of 200 U.S. cities. It scored 36th in job growth and 85th in the percentage of residents with a college degree or higher.
The other nine in the 2008 ranking’s top group were: Raleigh, N.C.; Boise; Fort Collins, Colo.; Des Moines, Iowa; Lexington, Ky.; Atlanta; Richmond, Va.; Olympia; and (No. 10) Knoxville, Tenn.
Seattle ranked 20th; Portland, Ore., was 35th; Eugene, Ore., was 36th; and Tacoma scored 43rd.
Hadley noted the rankings for the past three years show a steady uphill lift in terms of jobs and technology growth. But the ranking also shows that behind the numbers is a clear improvement in the lives of many residents and their ability to earn more, he said.
“We struggled in the past with the ranking for income growth. Now we see that we’re making gains there,” he said. “That’s good for people, not just for the list. It means more people have access to more jobs and better-paying jobs.”