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

Schweitzer Engineering, Northwestern Mutual planning significant expansions in Spokane Valley

Schweitzer Engineering Labs recently purchased the former ITT Tech Building in the Spokane Valley and moved into the new office last month. The address is 13518 E. Indiana Avenue in the Spokane Valley. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
By Amy Edelen The Spokesman-Review

Spokane Valley recently enticed two prominent companies to open new offices in the city – Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and Northwestern Mutual – both of which plan to increase their presence and add jobs.

In March, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories purchased the 28,000-square-foot former ITT Technical Institute building at 13518 E. Indiana Ave. to accommodate its growing employee base.

“We’re excited to set down deeper roots in the Valley with the purchase of this building,” said Kate Wilhite, spokeswoman at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. “As a property owner now, we’re very invested in the area and getting more and more involved.”

The Pullman-based company opened its first Spokane branch in 2012 with six employees at the Spokane Business and Industrial Park, but later outgrew the building, Wilhite said.

Wilhite said purchasing the former ITT Technical Institute building made sense for the company, because it’s close in proximity to their former office, in addition to restaurants, hotels and the freeway.

The company relocated to the new Valley office, which will accommodate more than 115 employees, in November. About 70 employees work from the office in six different divisions: research and development, finance, marketing, sales, and communications and engineering, the last of which includes various electrical, software and mechanical engineering fields.

Schweitzer is renovating the building to allow for open office seating and conference rooms, and converting a large classroom to be used for various events such as the company’s weekly “Friday Lunch” meeting.

“The new building will enable us to continue to grow,” Wilhite said. “We’ve had a lot of people that were commuting back and forth to Spokane from Pullman. Those folks are now sitting in the Valley office.”

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories – which designs and builds systems to protect power grids – was recently named “Employer of the Year” by the Association of Washington Business and has more than 57 U.S.-based offices, with 5,100 employees worldwide.

“With opening in Spokane, it increases our talent pool,” Wilhite said. “I would imagine we would continue to expand in Spokane and certainly fill up this building.”

Financial services firm Northwestern Mutual is another company aiming to expand its footprint in the Valley by agreeing to lease 20,000 square feet of second-floor office space in the first of three buildings under construction at Pinecroft Business Park, said Jamie Traeger, owner and broker at JMA Commercial Real Estate, LLC.

The three buildings, located at Pinecroft’s River’s Edge section, will each be more than 40,000 square feet. The second and third office buildings are still in the design stage and are estimated for completion within the next five years, Traeger said.

“We’re a hidden gem,” Traeger said. “We are excited about River’s Edge.”

Northwestern Mutual will relocate to the business park in June 2018 from its South Hill office. The new building will serve as the main hub for its nine Inland Northwest locations.

“We wanted to find a space where we could build it out the way we wanted, and found it was the best-suited place for us,” said Paul Hanson, managing partner at Northwestern Mutual. “The nice thing about the Valley is its the epicenter of the region here and it allows our clients to have access to us easier.”

Northwestern Mutual plans to relocate more than 40 employees to the Valley office and hire several financial advisers, interns and various support roles.

“This move is going to accommodate our growth,” Hanson said. “We have a pretty high growth curve for the next five years.”

The Pinecroft Business Park, located on Pinecroft Way and Mirabeau Parkway, occupies about 94 acres. It has attracted tenants such as Next IT Corporation, who moved their company headquarters to the business park in 2015.

There are about 40 acres left to develop, which will take about five to 10 years, Traeger said.

There are not very many true business parks in the greater Spokane area, Traeger said. For some locations, there might be desirable office space, but the nearby environment may not have a good “look and feel” to it.

But Pinecroft looks like a business park found in larger metro areas, such as Portland and Seattle, which is a draw for prospective tenants, Traeger said.

“When they drive down Mirabeau Parkway, it feels like a bigger market and companies are comfortable with that product type,” Traeger said.

Spokane Valley Economic Development Manager Mike Basinger said the city is conducive to businesses looking to relocate because they can easily obtain economic impact studies and can get permitted quickly without a lot of hurdles.

“We have a history for being really business friendly,” Basinger said. “When you come to the Valley, we’re here to help you.”