So much ado is made about that other Washington city--you know, the one that Microsoft, coffee addicts and grunge bands put on the map--that the number-21 mid-sized Western city, Spokane, could easily get lost in the shuffle. But this, the largest city in eastern Washington, is home to an entrepreneurial environment every bit as prosperous as its lush scenery would suggest.
Consider, for instance, the strong presence of high-tech firms in Spokane. Service businesses--particularly those in the health-care industry--are also significant to the local economy. Of special interest, however, is the recent surge in manufacturing. Employment in Spokane's manufacturing base has grown roughly 3 percent during the past two years. This certainly helps put the green in this region of the Evergreen State.
Yet even as Spokane's economy moves toward greater diversification, the city's entrepreneurial resources are priding themselves on unification. In a bid for one-stop convenience, the fledgling Spokane Regional Business Center houses everything from the city's chamber of commerce to various economic development organizations and the Spokane Area Business Information Center. The latter is one of only four sites nationwide to be designated an IBM Small Business Think Center.
Naturally, there are concerns as well. Despite pressure to change it, Washington's policy of taxing companies' gross receipts remains something of a thorn in the side of entrepreneurs. Then, too, there is the delicate balance that must be struck between the heralded boom in manufacturing and the beautiful scenery local residents are so proud of. And, yes, there is migration of many of the region's young people to the high-paying (and high-profile) behemoth that Bill Gates built. The increasingly tech-savvy Spokane, however, won't let Seattle--or any other city, for that matter-rain on its parade.