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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane climbing up Forbes list

Five years after nearly hitting rock bottom in a magazine ranking, Spokane has reached its highest-ever standing in Forbes’ list of the best cities to do business.

The 2004 Forbes ranking, released Friday, puts Spokane at No. 91 among the nation’s largest 150 metropolitan areas. Last year, it was ranked 100th.

Spokane this year finished ahead of Seattle and Tacoma for the first time ever in the annual Forbes ranking.

The annual list measures metropolitan areas by nine factors, including cost of living, income and job growth, crime rate and educational and cultural amenities.

This time around, Spokane ranked better-than-average in the number of residents who hold advanced degrees, cost of living, educational attainment and job growth. It was worse-than-average in crime rate, income growth and cultural/leisure areas.

Editors at Forbes noted that the best large and small cities to do business in tend to be ones with affordable lifestyles, a concentration of college graduates and strong leisure and cultural options.

The 2004 list ranked Madison, Wis.; Raleigh, N.C.; Austin, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and Atlanta as the top five large metropolitan areas. In the smaller-city category, the top five were: Sioux Falls, S.D.; Fargo, N.D.; Iowa City, Iowa; Lincoln, Neb.; and Fayetteville, Ark.

In 1999, the first year Forbes published its business-climate rankings, Spokane landed 161st out of 162 U.S. metros. Area leaders used that dismal score to call for major efforts to invigorate the region’s economy.

Up until now, Spokane’s highest Forbes rank was 98th, in the 2002 survey.

This year’s survey also included other Pacific Northwest cities, both large and small. Boise, which had been ranked No. 2 last year, fell to No. 7. Seattle, No. 89 a year ago, fell to No. 109. Tacoma raised its rank from 135th to 126th this year, the survey reported.

Among smaller cities, Missoula this year was 12th out of 168; last year it was 11th. Yakima had the distinction, for the second year in a row, of coming in dead last out of 168 smaller cities.

Spokane’s gain makes sense, according to Randy Barcus, chief economist for Avista Corp. “This information supports my contention for many years that this community is a remarkably good place to do business,” he said.

The positives listed by Forbes — affordability, educational attainment and job growth — will continue to make the area attractive to people who are looking to leave crowded cities elsewhere, Barcus said.

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