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Getting There: Leaders work to draw companies to West Plains

Officials are hoping Caterpillar Logistics, at 10000 W. Hallett Road, will be followed by more businesses near Spokane International Airport. The Caterpillar plant, at more than half a million square feet, is under construction. (Colin Mulvany)
Officials are hoping Caterpillar Logistics, at 10000 W. Hallett Road, will be followed by more businesses near Spokane International Airport. The Caterpillar plant, at more than half a million square feet, is under construction. (Colin Mulvany)

Local leaders hope that a sprawling new Caterpillar Logistics plant on the West Plains is the first in a series of new business arrivals near the airport.

Vacant land surrounding Spokane International Airport, some of which is owned by the airport, is getting more scrutiny by out-of-town companies, including Boeing, officials said.

As economic development is being promoted for light-industrial properties near the airport, officials said they are working to prevent encroachment on civilian and Air Force flight paths.

On Tuesday, the Spokane County commissioners took another step toward implementing zoning rules that will make it possible for large businesses to locate near the airport while protecting air approaches and takeoff zones.

They re-approved an interim law that establishes an airport overlay zone for the airport and Fairchild Air Force Base.

A permanent zoning change is expected in May.

The airport overlay zone is a copy of a Spokane city ordinance approved in advance of the city’s annexation of 10 square miles of the West Plains, which took place Jan. 1.

The interim zoning code also allows buildings as tall as 150 feet in the light-industrial zone, up from the former height limit of 65 feet, a limit that was increased a year ago from 42 feet to make it possible for Caterpillar to build on Hallett Road just west of the Medical Lake interchange. Raising the building limit to 150 feet was done in hopes of luring a Boeing facility.

Local leaders are hoping to piece together two 1,000-acre parcels near the airport that would be ready for construction if Boeing decides to expand its 737 MAX manufacturing with a satellite plant here. Business and government representatives said in December, when Boeing announced the new plane would be manufactured in Everett, that they hoped Spokane would be considered for a second production line down the road.

Boeing has said it needs skilled workers wherever it decides to locate a new facility. Spokane Community College’s Inland Northwest Aerospace Technology Center offers seven degrees in aviation trades.

Aside from Boeing, Spokane is starting to hear more interest from businesses about possibly relocating here, officials said last week.

Commissioner Al French said the site consultant who helped Caterpillar choose Spokane is continuing to tell clients about the thousands of acres of land available near the airport, Interstate 90 and rail lines.

French said two national companies and four businesses from Western Washington are considering locating in Spokane.

Todd Woodard, director of marketing and public relations at Spokane International Airport, said the airport has received new inquiries in the past several months.

“What started this was the Caterpillar project and our success with that,” he said.

County yields on signage

Residents near Stutler and Keeney roads in south Spokane County won a debate last week over the location of a new yield sign.

Commissioners asked their engineers to reconsider a plan to place the yield sign on the southbound side of Keeney at Stutler.

Residents suggested putting a stop sign on the westbound side of Stutler instead.

The commissioners also approved a request by the neighborhood to keep the speed limit at 35 mph even though the area was recently paved.

Paved county roads typically have 45 mph limits while gravel roads are posted at 35.

Contractors seek corridor funds

The Associated General Contractors of the Inland Northwest is upping the ante in efforts to gain additional funding for more construction on the North Spokane Corridor.

Local officials reported this week that Associated General Contractors is prepared to hire consultants to work on the issue of gaining funding from state and federal sources.

Council OKs class in lieu of fines

Spokane Valley drivers caught breaking traffic laws will have a new way to avoid fines and to keep their records clean.

The Spokane Valley City Council approved joining a program that will allow errant drivers the chance to take a six-hour driving class to avoid fines and other repercussions.

The Collision Avoidance, Reduction and Education School is voluntary, but the cost of the class is $124.

Deputies in Spokane are teaching the class.

Some violations, including multiple infractions, do not qualify for the program.

The county has been using the program since March 2008.



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