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Gaining the Competitive Edge

competitive change 23The greater-Spokane region frequently competes against cities across the nation for jobs and business investments. GSI’s business recruitment and retention efforts create economic impact by keeping existing businesses and bringing new business to our region. At the beginning of 2015 we contracted with site-selection experts from TadZo, and embarked on a three-phase study to help us determine what needs to be done to give the greater-Spokane region a sharper competitive edge.

Turns out we’re doing well in many areas, but, not unexpectedly, we have some work to do. The study, Driving Competitive Change, graded us on 10 key competitiveness factors that provided critical insights aimed at helping us grow the economy.

We rated as follows:

  • Sustainability = A
  • Location = B
  • Transportation = B+
  • Incentives = D
  • Real Estate = D
  • Business Climate = C
  • Utilities & Infrastructure = B+
  • Entrepreneurship & Innovation Resources = B
  • Human Capital: Skills, Talent Relocation, Pipeline = A
  • Permitting & Regulatory Environment = A

In June we learned where these grades put us in relation to communities considered primary competitors – Coeur d’Alene, Boise, Portland, Salt Lake City, Wichita and Palm Bay, FL. More importantly, we learned what we could do to enhance our competitiveness.

Tadzo provided a list of recommended solutions that will need to be implemented by many community partners.

A few recommendations that we can directly influence include:

  • Becoming industry experts by conducting clear research of target industries – siting requirements, typical operations, issues and industry trends.
  • Enhancing perception of the region through illustrative case studies that market our region’s strengths.
  • Creating business cases for each target industry and using maps to tell our region’s story.
  • Monitoring competitors’ activities and innovative initiatives, then benchmarking GSI’s progress with competitors.
  • Employing an attorney to conduct an analysis of state law to determine what incentives can be developed at the local level.

We’ll collaborate with our regional economic development partners to work on initiatives that require a broader-scope of influence, including establishing a port district in the region, developing local incentives, developing a signature industry business park, developing speculative buildings to increase industrial building inventory, certifying sites so that they’re ready for development, and advocating for fair business practices that include right-to-work, Workers Compensation improvements and B&O tax credits.

As we move forward, with the guidance of our volunteer Economic Development Action Group (EDAG), we will work to raise the grades on our report card through four work-stream areas of focus: local business climate and incentives, state business climate and incentives, real estate and product readiness, and innovation and tech transfer.

Although we’re leading the charge, this work isn’t ours alone. Making the greater-Spokane region the best place it can possibly be requires participation of the entire business community and we’re proud to know we have strong partners to help us get this work done. We want to specifically thank Avista, City of Spokane Valley, Numerica Credit Union, STCU, Washington Trust Bank, Century Link, and Wells Fargo for making this work possible and being an important part of leading our community. We could not do this work without you.

EDAG will work through the summer and present its recommendations to the GSI Board of Trustees in order for them to be incorporated into GSI’s broader strategic planning efforts prior to the beginning of our fiscal year (Oct. 1).

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