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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

GSI launches THRIVE Spokane economic development plan

Michaele Armstrong, associate director and co-founder of SP3NW, center, talks during a panel discussion Wednesday at the Spokane Convention Center.  (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)

Greater Spokane Incorporated has unveiled THRIVE Spokane, a long-term strategy to identify industries for growth and create sustainable economic prosperity over the next five years.

The plan addresses workforce trends and challenges, supply-chain issues, boosting innovation and the need for small business resources, among other things.

GSI partnered with consulting firms TIP Strategies Inc., and Maul Foster & Alongi Inc., to gather input from surveys, interviews, focus groups, roundtables and social media.

THRIVE Spokane focuses on four pillars for economic development: competitiveness, recovery-and-resilience; equitable growth and connectivity.

Business leaders discussed the plan’s pillars at a THRIVE launch event Wednesday held at the Spokane Convention Center.

The presence of Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and UW School of Medicine in Spokane has generated new partnerships and technology, prompting a need for a startup incubator, said Michaele Armstrong, associate director of Sp3nw, a Spokane-based early stage life science business incubator.

Sp3nw launched in 2020 and since then it has helped launch more than 45 health-and-life sciences startups. It has also drawn interest from companies that have relocated to Spokane from California, Kentucky and West Virginia, she said.

THRIVE Spokane also addresses local-workforce needs so companies have access to the best talent to meet business goals, according to GSI, which is the region’s economic development agency and chamber of commerce.

Educational attainment is key to boosting the region’s workforce, said Shelly O’Quinn, CEO of the Innovia Foundation.

More than 45% of people relocating to the region in the 24-to-35 age range hold a bachelor’s degree, compared with 30% of Spokane natives, O’Quinn said.

“We’re competing nationally for that talent,” she said. “So if we’re going to focus on resiliency and recovery, we have to look at growing our own talent. We have to make sure that we’re making investments in educational attainment, and that’s all levels.”

THRIVE Spokane found the region’s six industries poised for growth include aerospace and aviation; agribusiness; health and life sciences; manufacturing and materials; energy, infrastructure and technology; and logistics.

Spokane Workforce Council CEO Mark Mattke said the region has a strong sense of community that can work together to develop solutions to meet a growing need for workers.

“I think we’re uniquely positioned because … we can develop solutions to identify workers that are on the sidelines, that are underemployed, as well as the unemployed, and get them into these good paying jobs in these critical industries that matter,” he said.