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Valley, GSI working out differences

Appleway-Sprague plan to be ready by Oct. 1

Greater Spokane Inc. intends to earn its full $60,000 donation from Spokane Valley next year with a strategy to market the city’s Sprague-Appleway Revitalization plan to businesses around the country.

The City Council voted last week to withhold half of the grant if the regional economic-development organization doesn’t deliver a more aggressive plan to promote the city by Oct. 1.

Such a plan was already in the works, according to Jeff Severs, Greater Spokane Inc.’s chief operating officer.

He declined to comment on specifics of the plan, but said his organization will meet the Oct. 1 deadline. Mayor Rich Munson has scheduled a presentation at the City Council’s Oct. 13 meeting.

Severs said Greater Spokane began working on ways to sell the Sprague-Appleway plan after a meeting a couple of months ago in which Munson and City Manager Dave Mercier called for a marketing campaign.

“What we had promised to the mayor was to come back in early October with a plan, and that plan’s in the works,” Severs said in an interview. “That’s as the result of a series of meetings with the staff over there over the last month or so.”

If someone from Greater Spokane had said so at last week’s City Council meeting, Munson said, his comments “would not have been nearly as severe because all I was asking for was to do what they have done.”

But Greater Spokane didn’t send a representative to the meeting, at which the council doled out $142,500 in grants to economic-development and community-service organizations.

“Bad on us,” Severs said. “But we’ll continue to do more direct, face-to-face interface with the city and make sure that we’re meeting all of their expectations.”

Severs said Greater Spokane Inc. takes a regional approach to economic development, but cities often want to see results within their boundaries.

“I think we do need to communicate a little bit better exactly what we’re doing there for the city of the Valley,” Severs said. “I’ve had some follow-on dialogue with the city manager, in particular, and we think we’ll get this ironed out.”

Greater Spokane says it has given the city $200 million worth of economic development, a fivefold return on the $369,000 the city has given the organization since 2004.

That includes helping retain or expand 14 Spokane Valley businesses and recruiting six new ones, according to Greater Spokane business development director Robin Toth.

She said the retentions and expansions had a $149 million impact, including capital investment, construction jobs, salaries and benefits, and tax revenue to the city increased almost $2.5 million. Toth said the projects generated 586 direct jobs, 793 “indirect and induced” jobs and 567 temporary construction jobs.

Also, Toth said, Greater Spokane recruited six businesses to Spokane Valley that created more than $44 million of economic impact and more than $1 million in tax revenue. Those recruitments produced 242 direct jobs and 156 indirect and induced jobs.

Greater Spokane showed 75 properties in Spokane Valley to local, regional and national clients in the 12 months that ended last month, Toth added.

Severs said one way of improving communication with city officials is to “make sure that we’re at the table for some of their key issues.” Failure to do that well enough seems to have contributed to the criticisms Spokane Valley council members directed at Greater Spokane last week, Severs said.

Still, he said he was surprised by Munson’s comment that Greater Spokane executives weren’t aware of the Sprague-Appleway plan, which has been the subject of intense public debate for more than a year. Severs said he was a longtime Spokane Valley resident until he recently moved to Liberty Lake.

“Anyone who lives in Spokane Valley is aware of the plan,” he said.

Munson stood by his assertion that, in a meeting about two months ago in which he asked about plans to promote the Sprague-Appleway plan, Severs asked, “What plan?”

“I’ve got to tell you, the look on his face was that he had no idea what I was talking about and, when I went over it again, there wasn’t an ‘aha’ look at all,” Munson said.

Mercier said he and Stan Key, Greater Spokane’s manufacturing industry director, also were at that meeting. He recalled Munson asking whether Severs or Key had read the Sprague-Appleway plan, and “there was clearly no indication that either of them had read the plan.”

While the plan may not be “edge-of-the-chair reading” for many people, “we would hope there would be a high degree of interest” among the city’s economic-development representatives, Mercier said. “I suspect, though, that it’s been closely read since.”

Munson said he warned Greater Spokane President Rich Hadley about three weeks ago that he would recommend withholding money until the organization delivered a Sprague-Appleway marketing plan. Munson said Hadley’s response was to ask whether Greater Spokane had endorsed the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan.

Munson said that “indicated to me that he didn’t know anything about it, either.”

Hadley said he, Severs, Munson and Mercier “are going to sit down and get caught up on this … and make sure we’re all on the same page.”

Munson said he now thinks “things are well in hand.”

“The one thing about GSI is that, when they put their mind to something, they do a really, really good job, and I think they’ll do a good job this time,” Munson said. “You’ve just got to get their attention sometimes, which I think we did.”