A Rich Legacy to Remember

By Alisha Benson, CEO, Greater Spokane Inc.

Rich Hadley

Today, I want to take a moment to reflect on Rich Hadley, who passed away Sunday, a few months after being diagnosed with ALS. Rich was President Emeritus at GSI, having led our organization from 1993-2014.

I had the honor of not only working with Rich, but also calling him a mentor and friend. Rich hired me at GSI in 2008 and encouraged me to pursue a career in community and economic development.

Rich came to Spokane after serving as president of the St. Paul, Minn. Chamber of Commerce. As CEO for more than 20 years at GSI, he believed in the power of collaboration and coming together to create community impact that is felt today.

He would say that “his” accomplishments are really all of ours to own – Spokane community leaders, board members, friends, supporters, volunteers, committee members, GSI members, elected leaders, and community advocates – committed to goals and projects that he helped to envision. He was the ultimate community collaborator.

His leadership left an indelible mark on our community, as he championed projects across the region that are a reality today – the WSU Elson S. Floyd School of Medicine, the $1 billion lobbying effort to start the North Spokane Corridor, the development of the University District, the Spokane Teaching Health Center, and so much more.

Rich believed in the power of education and created opportunities for future leaders, supported bonds and levies campaigns, and created a Higher Education Leadership Group to help create tomorrow’s talent. He was instrumental in launching Vision 2030, now called Life Sciences Spokane, the community effort to build our life sciences industry sector here at home.

A Naval air intelligence officer in the Vietnam War and a naval reservist after returning home, he fervently supported the mission of Fairchild Air Force Base through years of advocating for military projects like the KC46A tankers and protecting the base from potential closure (BRAC).

His legacy of leadership runs deep in Spokane, across Washington State, and with chambers and economic development colleagues across the country. Rich was honored as a Spokane Citizen Hall of Fame, and a 2021 Business Icon, recognized for his tenacity and leadership.  He worked with the Association of Washington Business to help create their Grassroots Alliance that now stands more than 100 chambers strong and is the largest network of its kind in the country and he chaired the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, where he was recognized as a Lifetime Member for his contributions and leadership with the chamber industry.

To the very end, he remained focused and committed to our community, our people, and what comes next. So many of us continue to lead forward because of Rich’s passion, vision, and advocacy for our community.

We hope you enjoy this photo and video montage below that was put together when he retired. If you have any memories, stories, or photos you’d like to share about Rich, please feel free to leave a comment below or send a message to his family by emailing us at

Rich – you will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, dear friend.

*Top photo courtesy of Jeremy Marinos


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