In the eyes of the U.S. Census Bureau, Spokane and Coeur d’Alene have been merged into a single metropolitan area with a population of 609,000 people.
The combined statistical area “Spokane-Coeur d’Alene” ranks as the 87th most-populous metropolitan area in the United States, just behind Boise.
The designation has been anticipated for years, and business boosters hope the placement in the top 100 largest U.S. population centers earns the region a closer look by companies planning to expand. It could also help the region collect more federal funding.
Michaellyn Garcia, a Census Bureau geographer, said Spokane and Kootenai counties will retain distinct statistical identities, but commuter traffic crossing the state line reached numbers that merited a statistical combination. While the census provides the figures, the decision to combine two statistical areas is made by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.
Spokane County has a population of 471,000; Kootenai County has 138,000.
Spokane has embraced the idea of a combined statistical area for years. Coeur d’Alene, however, had rejected the notion, fearing a loss of its brand as a scenic destination.
Yet during the past decade the areas have continued to grow closer.
“It was inevitable this time,” said Patrick Jones, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis at Eastern Washington University.
“If you’re in the Top 100 list, the thinking goes, you’re going to be more visible as a place for business to come,” he said.
The Coeur d’Alene business community insisted that should the metropolitan area designation be inevitable, it should include the name of its city.
Todd Christensen, chief executive of the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce said the community and businesses have invested millions of dollars branding the city and lake and believe the name carries a positive identity.
The statistical change will not occur until 2013, Garcia said.
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