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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Process may raise region’s profile

Whether or not Spokane ever lands an assembly site for the next generation of U.S. Air Force tankers, officials behind the effort here say the real goal is making friends with a real estate company in Dallas.

That company, a consulting firm started by former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, has been hired as site-selection consultant for EADS North America, the majority owner of European aerospace giant Airbus.

Airbus said it hopes to manufacture the next generation of Air Force tankers in the U.S. The company asked three communities from interested states to prepare applications for the plant, which if built would create more than 1,100 jobs. In Washington, Spokane and Moses Lake both plan to apply for the possible $600-million production facility.

Competition has already become fierce for a project that many in Congress say may never happen. But it’s certain, say Spokane officials, that one result of the application effort will be making Staubach Co. executives more aware of Spokane’s economic assets.

“It’s absolutely just as important” to have Staubach know more about Spokane as it is to make it to the next round in the Airbus sweepstakes, said Theresa Sanders, executive vice president of business development for the Spokane Area Economic Development Council.

“This is an opportunity to showcase Spokane’s assets to a global company,” she said.

Ultimately, it’ll be up to Congress and the administration to decide whether the Defense Department uses a competitive bid process for its next tanker fleet, pitting Chicago-based Boeing against Airbus – the only companies large enough to fulfill such a contract.

That EADS added Staubach to the Airbus process isn’t surprising. The firm, launched in 1977, is one of the nation’s best-connected real estate consultants. It has 50 offices nationwide.

It’s done work for big clients such as Pepsi, Halliburton, Chase Bank, Cisco Systems and BNSF, according to its Web site.

Sanders said Spokane wants Staubach officials to know the strengths of this area’s manufacturing industry. Spokane’s history of working successfully with Boeing is part of the region’s aerospace-industry resume, she said.

But the first step is showing off what Spokane offers, Sanders said. “We have all the assets (Airbus) would need,” she said, including available land, a skilled work force, an airport with a long runway and high quality of life.

Local developer Marshall Chesrown became familiar with the Staubach Co. when he worked in Florida for Auto Nation, a national car dealership. He moved back to Spokane in 1999.

Chesrown said he considers the Staubach Co. “the best in the business.”

After developing the upscale Black Rock golf course in Kootenai County, Chesrown last year announced plans for a major mixed-use development on what’s been called the Summit property just west of downtown Spokane.

He said he’s considering asking Staubach officials to work with him to find retailers for the 77-acre project. Chesrown said he likes that Staubach assembles a group of retailers who all agree to move into a development.

“We’d like to talk to them about that same idea (for Summit),” Chesrown said. But nothing formal has been discussed with the Staubach Co., he added.

If either the Airbus project or the Summit development alert Staubach officials to Spokane’s advantages, the whole region will gain, Chesrown said.

“In the Western United States, they are the clear leader,” he said. “Their list of clients is impressive.”