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A Letter from our Board Chair: Paul Read

Last week, GSI celebrated at its annual meeting under the very appropriate theme of “The Power of We.” I can’t stress enough how important that notion is to our community right now, as we begin the hard work of emerging from a crisis and begin envisioning our future.

Earlier, our board adopted an economic recovery roadmap that attempts to balance a near-term focus on recovery with an eye toward longer-term strategies. We must continue to advocate for businesses to safely reopen and expand. We must support our workforce by retaining jobs and equipping workers for new ones. And we must drive proactive and strategic economic growth, in its broadest definition.

I’m often struck by conversations about economic development, because the term usually means something different to each person. And they’re all correct. It’s business retention and expansion, it’s outbound recruiting, and it’s supporting startups. But it’s also about creating an environment in which those things can occur, from the politics of business climate, to the advocacy for infrastructure needs, to finding ways to supply the talent employers need.

That’s what GSI does. Yes, it’s broad and sometimes hard to get our arms around. And while we know we can’t be all things to all people, we are committed to keeping our eyes on the ultimate prize, which is a community that recognizes those things, invests in those things, and shouts from the rooftops that we have those things.

The brightest fires for us in 2021 go beyond rebound and recovery, because we have long-term ideas that must begin now—both because the opportunities are fresh and because bold goals take time to reach.

One opportunity in front of us actually emerged from the pandemic. This crisis has brought suffering to many, and businesses have been knocked to their knees. Yet in crisis, people respond heroically, and the collaboration I have seen amongst those organizations that make up our economic development ecosystem here has been nothing less than heroic.

Our opportunity today is to capitalize on those rekindled partnerships. We’ve proven we can work together to navigate a crisis. Now we must navigate our way through a new vision of Spokane’s economic future, and to discern both the clarity of that path and the clarity of each of our roles in walking it.

The Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) process, which should begin soon, is a fitting venue for doing that, but we can’t stop there. Inside and outside of that process, we must relentlessly build on and leverage each of our organizations’ strengths and fill in for each other’s weaknesses.

A second fire before us is the need for our community to have sustainable economic development funding. We lack the funding tools other counties have, and though we will continue to rely on private partners to fund economic development, that responsibility can’t be placed entirely on their shoulders. We need a broader solution that leverages their investments. That work won’t be completed this year, but we must start. And it can’t be just about GSI, but rather a community solution.

With clarity of vision, clarity of role, and sustainable funding that can fuel our collective efforts, we can define what our future looks like, capitalizing on the groundwork of all of our efforts past and present.

We will create that together. As we.

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