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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Three groups awarded development funds

Three area economic-development groups will receive $650,000 from Spokane County for job creation and business growth next year.

A fourth group that had been denied funding two weeks ago now looks likely to receive $50,000, Spokane County commissioners decided in a meeting Tuesday.

The three winners, the Spokane Area Economic Development Council, Connect Northwest and the Spokane International Trade Alliance, all received close to the amount of money they requested.

The group now one step closer to funding is Spokane-based AHANA, which promotes businesses owned by women and minorities. Two weeks ago, Spokane County Commissioners Phil Harris and Todd Mielke opposed the AHANA request.

On Tuesday they and Commissioner Mark Richard gave tentative approval for $50,000, which AHANA will use in coordination with Eastern Washington University’s Center for Entrepreneurial Activities.

But since commissioners approved the general fund budget two weeks ago, they told AHANA officials another public hearing will be required before the money can be authorized.

Spokane County provides far more cash for area economic development groups than any other local government. Its 2006 general fund will exceed $130 million.

The EDC and Connect Northwest will each get $275,000 for the coming year. The EDC had sought $300,000. It received $275,000 from the county in 2005. The EDC budget this year has been $1.1 million and will grow to about $1.3 million in 2006.

For 2006 the EDC expects to receive $95,000 from the City of Spokane and $65,000 from Spokane Valley. The city gave the EDC exactly the same amount in 2005; Spokane Valley provided the EDC $55,000 this year.

Connect Northwest, a relative newcomer among economic development agencies, had asked for $295,000.

It develops networks of resources that can help young tech companies expand and grow. It had received about $300,000 in 2005 from the county.

Connect Northwest’s proposed 2006 budget will be close to $350,000, said CEO Bill Kalivas. The county money is the bulk of its operating budget, with the rest coming from sponsorships and money raised through programs, he said.

Spokane’s International Trade Alliance, which fosters foreign trade among area firms, received $100,000 for 2006. That’s twice what the ITA received from the county in 2005.

The International Trade Alliance’s 2006 budget will come to $260,000, said Executive Director Roberta Brooke.

It will get $57,000 from the City of Spokane, the same it received from the city this year.

“We’re not adding any new programs,” Brooke said, noting the added cost of overhead and labor has strained the group’s budget resources.

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