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Sunday, October 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

Number of new business licenses in Spokane Valley up for debate

Lori Karstens, manager of the new Hop Jack’s location in the Spokane Valley Mall, pours a beer Tuesday at the restaurant. The business opened Monday. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Lori Karstens, manager of the new Hop Jack’s location in the Spokane Valley Mall, pours a beer Tuesday at the restaurant. The business opened Monday. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Spokane Valley attracts 200 new businesses every month.

At least that’s what Mayor Dean Grafos and other city leaders say – and say often. But the mayor’s numbers don’t jibe with numbers from the state.

The latest list available from the state Department of Licensing shows 1,007 new licenses in Spokane Valley in 2014 so far – that’s about 100 a month.

Grafos said his tally is 1,607 – or around 160 a month – and he attributes the difference to state records being behind by 60 or 90 days.

“We had 153 in October alone,” Grafos said. “In 2013 we had 1,534 new registrations.”

That averages 127 each month.

“No matter how you look at it, it’s still a lot of activity,” Grafos said. “I’m not trying to manipulate the numbers.”

A new business license doesn’t automatically result in a new storefront or even a new business.

Carolbelle Branch, the city’s public information officer, said some of the businesses on the new licensee list may have missed the renewal date on an existing license. Other businesses may already be active in Spokane Valley but are just now receiving the city’s endorsement.

New business licensees receive an “endorsement” in the form of a welcome letter, a map of Spokane Valley and other relevant information signed by Grafos.

But neither Spokane Valley nor the state Department of Licensing has a ready number for how many of the new businesses succeed and stick around for some time – or how many never open.

Grafos said he’s not sure which type of business is growing the fastest in Spokane Valley but said he signs a lot of endorsement letters to service businesses and to dentists, attorneys and accountants.

“I’d say by far the majority are smaller businesses with less than five employees,” Grafos said.

Spokane Valley launched a $75,000 advertising campaign in 2012 with the “Spokane Valley – City of Opportunity” slogan that’s become familiar on radio and TV. At the same time, the city streamlined its permitting process in an effort to become more business-friendly.

One person who noticed the spots is Lori Karstens, general manager of Hop Jack’s, which opened in Spokane Valley Mall on Monday.

“It really has been easier here than in other cities,” Karstens said.

She said she was shown many different properties in Spokane Valley before deciding on the mall.

The Seattle-based restaurant chain considered Spokane’s South Hill but liked the demographics in Spokane Valley better.

“Everything went very smoothly for us,” Karstens said.

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