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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Exceeding expectations

Riverpoint campus has economic impact of $350 million annually, consultant says

Spokane’s Riverpoint campus on the eastern edge of downtown is generating $350 million in annual economic impact, the head of a national consulting company told a group of Spokane officials Thursday.

Paul Umbach, president and CEO of Tripp Umbach, a health care and higher-education consulting firm, detailed how Riverpoint has grown faster than he predicted four years ago.

In 2009 businesses belonging to Greater Spokane Incorporated underwrote a $50,000 study by Umbach that projected the jobs and economic impact Riverpoint and its collection of classrooms, labs and bioscience businesses would have on the community.

Umbach said he’s found Riverpoint’s medical education programs and new facilities are creating $20 million more in economic impact than he previously estimated it would.

Umbach said the economic impacts come from three components: academic programs, health care services and jobs created by bioscience companies. When tracking the full Riverpoint impact, his checklist tracks jobs and spending across the region, not just the spending in downtown, he said.

The campus impact came faster than anticipated, he said, because Washington State University has already transferred its Pullman-based pharmacy program to Riverpoint and because Washington legislators agreed to pay for the construction of the Riverpoint WSU biomedical and health sciences building.

While Riverpoint has ramped up since 2009 faster than he predicted, Umbach also emphasized strategies that need to be focused before Riverpoint can grow to his estimated 2017 impact of $400 million per year.

Since the state and the health care industry now face stiff financial challenges, the next four years of growth at Riverpoint will be funded more by private companies and businesses, Umbach said.

Umbach said Spokane offers advantages for pharmaceutical companies, medical device makers, health care analysts and bioscience innovators to form partnerships with other Riverpoint entities.

“Spokane will have to say, ‘Hey, we have what will soon be a four-year medical school and we have all these other things going on at Riverpoint. This is a good place for your business to be here, where it’s a great place to live and a great place to run a business,’ ” he said.

He said another strategy Spokane needs to address is the number of medical residencies created by the University of Washington’s regional WWAMI medical education program. WWAMI brings medical students from Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho to Spokane for one or more years of medical training.

After getting medical degrees, graduates start residencies in hospitals or clinics. Spokane has the capacity to support 44 WWAMI residencies, said Umbach, but the goal embraced by med school proponents is to get that number to 144 residencies.

Not only do residents tend to stay in the city where they work, their economic impact is significant, he said. Each resident generally accounts for at least four new jobs and about $1.5 million in local economic impact, he said.

Based on similar studies he conducts nationwide, Spokane has the advantage of widespread cooperation around Riverpoint, Umbach said. “In Spokane, it’s clearly not a case where you have groups working in their own silos and not with each other.”

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