A California business consultant will recommend that the Spokane Area Economic Development Council take the lead in coordinating business and economic planning for the region.
Audrey Taylor, president of Chabin Concepts, based in Chico, Calif., will include that recommendation in a report being prepared for business leaders and economic development officials.
Taylor, who has worked with the Spokane EDC before, is being paid $35,000 for the study, titled “Maximizing Spokane’s Assets.”
The study is one of three projects her company has undertaken to address economic development in this region.
The “assets” study is being underwritten by Focus 21, a strategic-planning group that ceased operations in 2002 but had money left for this project.
Taylor said the study was based on this question: What’s the best way to get “maximum lift” in the shortest possible time for the area’s economy?
That report is due to be completed later this month, she said.
Her second project, for which Chabin will earn between $30,000 and $40,000, is a plan to improve the effectiveness of the Spokane EDC.
The third project is a plan to generate a stronger list of potential companies to relocate to Spokane. That effort, for Inland Northwest Partners, is an ongoing project with no set fee.
The conclusion that Spokane needs one coordinating and planning entity is not new; other studies have said the same thing. But Taylor’s study will include a strong recommendation that the job fall to the EDC.
Spokane’s EDC currently focuses primarily on recruiting new business to Spokane and helping existing businesses grow. Its budget now is about $700,000, down significantly from the $1.2 million budget it had 10 years ago, said EDC President and CEO Jon Eliassen.
After spending several months reviewing economic development efforts here, Taylor concluded one group needs to take a primary role.
“Someone or some group needs to be responsible, the entities need to coordinate. And I think that economic development corporations are typically held responsible for that,” she said.
She also concluded that Spokane leaders need to spend as much time on long-term strategies as on short-term “tactical” efforts like creating targeted worker training programs.
Developing a stronger “innovation-technology” economy also will require some coordination at the local level, she said, “because it’s a complex process with a lot of moving parts.” Those range from trying to expand the amount of federal and privately funded research occurring here, to finding more ways to fund entrepreneurs.
Taylor said the “assets” report will recommend that some Spokane entity become the central coordinator for technology issues, to ensure that the community’s efforts are balanced and feasible. Unlike the overall coordination role, she didn’t specify which group should take the lead.
“Spokane has been doing a lot of different tech initiatives. Now we need to make sure they’re linked to each other and producing efficient results,” she said.
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