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Road to Recovery

Advocacy an Important Push for Economic Incentives

By Pia Hallenberg, Content by Pia

Spokane Valley Skyline and Manufacturing Businesses. Photo by Rogue Heart Media/Megan Kennedy

The day Senate Bill 5901 passed was a good day for workforce and business development in Spokane. The bill created a sale-and-use tax incentive worth up to $400,000 for companies that invest in new buildings, new equipment for manufacturing, as well as research and development, which lead to the creation of more manufacturing jobs.

“That bill is so important to Spokane,” said Jake Mayson, Director of Public Policy for GSI. “We worked hard to get that bill passed this session.”

Sponsored by State Senator Andy Billig (D-Spokane) and five of his colleagues, this bill also allows for total forgiveness of tax deferrals on projects that meet certain criteria and are located in counties with fewer than 650,000 residents. Spokane County has about 513,000 residents according to the 2020 Census.

The bill is part of the State of Washington’s overall goal to create 300,000 new manufacturing jobs over the next 10 years.

“This bill is going to help us so much on the road ahead toward recovery and resiliency as we work to get back to a pre-pandemic level of business development,” Mayson said. “We have to continue to strengthen our workforce systems, so we have the people to fill the jobs that are coming our way.”

Mayson said the bill is a great tool for job creation in Spokane.

“It’s just one of many things that have to be in place,” Mayson said. “It will definitely help us compete with Idaho.”

Another funding source for economic incentives, is the Governor’s Strategic Reserve Fund which can be used for workforce development and job creation, as well as relocation funding and environmental analysis – with awards granted by the discretion of the Governor.

“That funding can be used to entice a company that is looking to move to Washington State,” said Gary Ballew, Vice President of Economic Development at GSI.

GSI is the Associate Development Organization (ADO) for Spokane County, which means GSI is the primary contact for the Washington State Department of Commerce and all county-based economic development elements.

And it was through that channel GSI was able to secure a $350,000 grant for CarbonQuest, an industry leader in decarbonizing. CarbonQuest moved its headquarters from New York to Spokane Valley, where the grant is expected to create more than 100 new jobs.

“CarbonQuest is a great example of economic incentives at work,” Ballew said. “They also looked at Idaho, but we did the grant application for them, and we just wrapped up the contract.”

CarbonQuest will be using the funding for facilities and for workforce training. The company employs 12 people and plans to expand both its facility and operations in 2022.

As a matter of fact, Spokane County has added more than 4,000 new green jobs in the last five years. That’s a growth rate almost three times as high as the rest of the Spokane job market.

Along with strong economic incentives it’s also important for the Spokane-area to have strong workforce development plans.

Mayson said there was a worker shortage going into the pandemic and it’s important to continue to build a competitive workforce.

“Going into the pandemic we had shortages especially in nursing but also in other areas,” Mayson said. “Today we have massive shortages in the trades, like plumbers and pipefitters.”

Existing workforce shortages were exasperated by the pandemic, but Mayson said he is hopeful that educational outreach to middle- and high school students will help them realize that careers in the trades are very rewarding.

The number of baby boomers retiring is increasing at a faster rate than ever before, partly because of age and partly because the pandemic accelerated retirement for some.

“We have to strengthen our workforce development as we prepare for the ‘silver tsunami’ – the massive retirement numbers that are coming our way,” Mayson said.

He added that the Spokane area overall has a great workforce, and that’s very attractive to businesses seeking to relocate.

“We produce a highly skilled workforce, especially in the medical and life sciences fields,” Mayson said. “Now we must continue to reach all the way into middle school and get students there interested in the trades. It’s the trades where we need to be competitive.”

However, easy access to great educational facilities is another way in which Spokane remains very competitive compared to other cities of equal population size.

“We had more medical students than the city of Seattle last year,” Mayson said. “That’s really great.”

In the end, Senate Bill 5901 certainly will help provide what Ballew calls a softer landing for companies seeking to relocate to Spokane.

“They ask: What sort of assistance can you offer me when I try and relocate my company? How can you help me stretch my dollar?” Ballew said. “Senate Bill 5901 will provide help to get a new startup to the point of breaking even more quickly – and that’s huge.”

*The GSI Connect Magazine is published in partnership with the Spokane Journal of Business. To read the 2022-2023 edition of the magazine view the digital publication here or contact us to pick up your copies today.

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