Spokane Valley was poised for growth last year with its balanced budget, new city hall and infrastructure projects – and now those efforts are showing.
Business is booming, said Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins at a State of the City address Friday.
“We’ve been strategically developing industrial areas for growth and it’s paying off,” Higgins said to more than 200 attendees at CenterPlace Regional Event Center. “A significant number of businesses are choosing to relocate or expand here.”
Higgins attributed the city’s streamlined permitting process, development of the northeast industrial area and planned infrastructure improvements as reasons for attracting businesses.
The northeast industrial area contains more than 563 acres of undeveloped, industrial-zoned land, “ready and waiting” for new businesses, Higgins said.
Higgins noted that California-based technology company Katerra is completing its 250,000- square-foot cross-laminated timber facility in the northeast industrial area.
“The company not only plans to employ 150 people, but Katerra’s Spokane Valley factory will produce enough materials to build 45 commercial office buildings this year, supplying cross-laminated timber to an emerging West Coast market,” Higgins said.
Progress Rail purchased land adjacent to Katerra from Centennial Properties, a subsidiary of the Cowles Co., which publishes The Spokesman-Review, for $3.2 million, according to Spokane County assessor’s office records.
The company is planning to build a 150,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and a new short line rail spur off Union Pacific Railroad’s main line, according to city documents.
In addition, The Spokesman-Review’s print publishing operations will move to the northeast industrial area in late 2019 or early 2020, into a building owned by Centennial Real Estate Investment on Euclid Avenue.
Spokane Valley recently adopted a planned action ordinance in the northeast industrial area that identifies environmental and traffic impacts for businesses before they file building permits, which could shave months off the permitting process.
The city secured funding last year for its $19 million project to replace a railroad crossing with an overpass near Trent Avenue. The project, which will enhance traffic flow and improve safety near the northeast industrial area, also includes a roundabout 200 feet north of the Trent Avenue and Barker Road intersection. Construction is expected to begin by 2021.
“All of these efforts prepare this area for an explosion of growth,” Higgins said. “All of this means solid, high-paying jobs for the citizens of Spokane Valley.”
City leaders are strategizing how to attract more aerospace manufacturers to Spokane Valley, Higgins said.
Washington is a world leader in aerospace manufacturing, producing nearly 95 percent of all commercial aircraft in North America, and Liberty Lake is home to the Inland Northwest Aerospace Consortium, he said.
“We’re very well positioned to attract more aerospace industries,” he said. “We have the right combination of skilled workforce, available land and a supportive business environment to meet their needs.”
Growing the small business community is another area of importance, Higgins said, adding the city created a series of “lunch and learn” workshops with StartUp Spokane featuring topics such as market research, public speaking, accounting and finance.
“It’s been a real pleasure to host these kinds of events at our new City Hall and to bring small businesses together,” he said.
A focal point again this year for Spokane Valley is replacing a dwindling telephone tax used to fund road preservation with a dependable revenue source.
Higgins said city engagement with residents will be key to finding a solution.
“We have a challenge ahead of us as we look at how to fund our street preservation at an acceptable level,” he said. “Maintaining what we have and finding a sustainable way to care for our roads is a top priority for the city of Spokane Valley.”
Spokane Valley Deputy Mayor Pam Haley said the city is also continuing to invest in park improvements to enrich the quality of life for residents.
The city last year accepted an 11-acre donation from former city councilman Bill Gothmann to create Myrna Park near Saltese Flats, added eight volleyball courts to Browns Park and completed a section of Appleway Trail from Sullivan to Corbin roads.
A section of the Appleway Trail from Evergreen to Sullivan roads will be constructed later this year, completing the trail from University Road to Liberty Lake.
Spokane Valley is working with businesses to develop direct connections to Appleway Trail, which will create opportunities for users to enjoy local eateries, boutiques and shops as they travel the pathway.
“It’s wonderful to see Appleway Trail become what the community envisioned … a path for friends, neighbors and visitors to connect with local businesses, improve their health and enjoy nature,” Haley said.
The State of the City address was sponsored by the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.
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