By Joey Gunning, Strategic Growth Manager, Greater Spokane Inc.
Over the last 12 months, more than 65 organizations in Spokane County have been working together toward a shared vision for regional growth and equity. The Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), also known as THRIVE Spokane, represents a strategic roadmap for our region’s growth and development. As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of this transformative initiative, it’s important that we take a minute to reflect on its significance and how it has brought together the talents, ideas, and opportunities that make Spokane County thrive.
Why the CEDS?
The CEDS was conceived as a response to the challenges and opportunities faced by our region. Coming out of the pandemic, we realized that our community had not been through an inclusive strategic planning process in over 20 years. The goal of the CEDS was to provide a unified vision and a strategic framework to address our region’s pressing issues and make our economy more resilient.
Without a regional strategy like the CEDS, we lack a cohesive approach to economic development. Collaboration among stakeholders would be limited. This could lead to missed opportunities, disjointed planning, and overall stagnation in our region’s economic growth. As our VP of Economic Development, Gary Ballew, paraphrases an old business line – “Economic Development without a regional strategy for where you want to go is a lot like eating soup with a fork. You stay busy but you don’t really get anywhere.” The CEDS helps to harmonize our efforts and amplify our impact.
One-Year Anniversary Event
The recent one-year anniversary event showcased the tremendous progress made through the CEDS. We presented a “scorecard” that helped illustrate which CEDS goals are “on track, in progress, or incomplete.” Key performance indicators were discussed to gauge our advancement toward the outlined goals. This event gave us the opportunity to celebrate achievements, recognize areas where we can do better, and get real about our commitment to keep pushing forward.
During the event, we also heard from four outstanding speakers from some key areas of the CEDS. Ariane Schmidt, Executive Director of the Spokane Regional Broadband Development Authority (BROADLINC), shared updates on broadband expansion and digital equity initiatives that are gaining traction, making sure that no one gets left behind in this digital age. Ginger Ewing, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Terrain, discussed the state of the creative economy in Spokane and across Washington State, highlighting the potential growth of the industry with increased investments in the arts. Mark Pond, Business Research Librarian with the Spokane Public Library, shared a number of resources available for small business owners and how the Library is convening entrepreneur-serving organizations in a group known as the Knowledge Network to address our business community’s most pressing concerns. Finally, Mark Norton, Chair of INWAC (now known as the Northwest I90 Manufacturing Alliance), addressed the growth of the manufacturing industry and the collaboration with the Evergreen Bioscience Innovation Cluster to solidify our region’s position as a manufacturing powerhouse.
What Happens Next?
The CEDS journey is still only beginning. Building on the momentum of the 1-year anniversary event, the CEDS implementation enters an exciting phase of continued progress. The roadmap ahead emphasizes the importance of sustained collaboration, engagement, and adaptability. It aims to leverage our region’s strengths, embrace emerging opportunities, and address evolving challenges.
But we need YOU! As members of the greater Spokane community, we all have a role to play in the success of our economic future. Whether you are a business owner, an employee, an educator, or a community member, your active involvement can contribute to the realization of our shared vision. Engage with us at meetings, attend public events, share your ideas, and actively participate in the initiatives.
Together, we have the power to shape a brighter future for our region – one that capitalizes on our strengths, embraces innovation, and fosters a thriving and inclusive economy.