Trumpets sounding fanfares might be over the top for anything as wonkish as a “combined statistical area,” but Spokane and Kootenai counties’ new status in the eyes of the federal government deserves at least a respectful mention.
With a combined population of 609,715, according to the 2010 Census, the bordering counties will rank in the top 65 such areas in the country once the designation is formally implemented, probably in 2013.
To businesses looking for locations with a certain population mass, that joint identity can be an attention-getting device that neither county could match individually.
The numbers also bear on such economic considerations as transportation funding and Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. The community’s recent success in attracting major athletic events such as ice skating championships and regional NCAA basketball playoffs can only be enhanced.
In the keen economic-development competition with other Western communities – such as Boise, Colorado Springs and Reno – getting noticed can be an advantage. It’s a leg up we might have had a decade ago when the statistical designation required agreement from the affected communities, something that broke down over state lines.
Thanks to 10 more years of growth and the gradual fusing of Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Spokane Valley, Post Falls and Liberty Lake, regionalism is beyond denial.
Now we have to act like the region we are.
When status as a combined statistical area was dependent on local consensus following the 2000 Census, Post Falls and Spokane were largely in agreement on the move but Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai County had reservations, fearing loss of a separate identity and loss of certain federal funding advantages that flowed to rural areas.
While the new classification does not erase the individual status each community already owns, the sensitivities have to be recognized and honored in the full spirit of regionalism. A measure of healthy competitiveness is unavoidable, but we now have an enhanced opportunity to capitalize on our collective strengths.
If we do it right, it’s a chance to blow our own horn.
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