Every little $300,000 helps, so even though the latest chunk of public investment falls short of what economic development specialists once hoped for, it is a welcome installment on a promising project at Spokane International Airport.
At stake for the community are some 270 jobs maintaining and painting commercial airliners. Several hurdles remain to be cleared before that objective will be accomplished, but a $300,000 state grant announced last week will allow design and engineering work to get under way for two hangars.
The facilities are necessary to accommodate Cascade Aerospace and Associated Painting, two elements of Spokane’s important cluster of aerospace industries. Cascade is already in operation with about 60 workers in an overhauled hangar, but planned expansion will require a new building. Meanwhile, Associated Painting needs a sophisticated structure that meets strict criteria for airflow, electrical needs and the collection of sludge used to strip old paint from aircraft before they get a new look.
A combination of public and private investments is being assembled to achieve what is handled in a more streamlined fashion in other states. Those state have laws allowing them to simply give desirable businesses the facilities and infrastructure they want to persuade them to move there.
The problem with those hyper-efficient arrangements, however, is that they often last only until another state puts a more tantalizing offer on the table.
It’s true that Washington state’s constitution imposes notoriously severe restrictions on recruiting business and jobs, and many people believe the state has put itself at a competitive disadvantage.
Perhaps, but agencies, organizations and individual enterprises working together have learned to pursue job growth by focusing on assets that the area can claim, such as a high-caliber work force and carefully tailored training resources.
And the public purse-holders haven’t exactly been stingy. Cascade Aerospace has received $6 million in generously structured loans from the state Community Economic Revitalization Board, plus last week’s $300,000 grant. More local contributions are likely because city utility and Avista power lines must be relocated or revamped to make way for the proposed hangar complex.
Local forces have gone a long way to show Cascade Aerospace and Associated Painters sound reasons to make Spokane home. Assuming it all pans out, the jobs will be worth it for the community. The community will be worth it for the two businesses.