The Economy of Spokane
In 1883, gold and silver were discovered in the Inland Northwest. As a regional shipping center, the city furnished supplies to the miners who passed through on their way to mine in the Coeur d’Alene as well as the Colville and Kootenay districts. By the mid-1890s, high mining operations were underway in the region. The area is considered to be one of the most productive and reformed mining districts in North America. Natural resources have traditionally provided much of the economic activity for the Spokane area, a major center for the timber, agriculture, and mining industries in the region.
Home to Corporations
Companies have located or relocated to the Spokane area, drawn by the easy access to raw materials and lower operating costs, such as cheap hydroelectric power. Finished wood products, metal refinery and fabrication, and food processing are among the leaders in manufacturing. Fortune 1000 company, Potlatch Corporation, which operates as a real estate investment trust (REIT) and owns and manages timberlands located in Arkansas, Idaho, Minnesota, and Oregon, is headquartered in Spokane. The outlying areas are part of an abundant agricultural system, providing a large amount of the nation's apples, peas, hops, pears, asparagus, lentils, soft wheat, and sweet cherries. A number of highly regarded wineries and breweries also operate in the Spokane area.
Forestry and agribusiness continue to be important elements in the local economy, but Spokane's economy has diversified to encompass other industries, including the lucrative high-tech and biotech sectors. Signature Genomic Laboratories, a fast-growing genetics company, is headquartered in Spokane, and Itron, a producer of metering, data collection, and software products is headquartered in nearby Liberty Lake, Washington. Economic development initiatives in Greater Spokane concentrate on six industries: manufacturing, aerospace, health sciences, information technology, clean technology, and digital media. Spokane's downtown is the site of a 100-block wireless network—one of the largest of its kind in the country, which is seen as symbolic of its dedication to the development of technological opportunities and resources.
From 2005 to 2007, the leading industries in Spokane for the employed population 16 years and older were educational services, and health care, and social assistance, 25%, and retail trade, 12%. The health care industry is a large and increasingly important industry in Spokane; the city provides specialized care to many patients from the surrounding Inland Northwest and as far north as the Canadian border. Other industries include construction and mining, manufacturing, transportation, communication and networking utilities, finance, insurance, real estate, and government. Furthermore, all branches of the U.S. armed forces are represented in Spokane County. The largest military facility in the area is Fairchild Air Force Base. Sizable companies with locations in the Spokane region include Agilent, Cisco, F5 Networks, General Dynamics, Goodrich Corporation, Itron, Kaiser Aluminum, Telect, and Triumph Composite Systems.
As the metropolitan center of the Inland Northwest as well as southern British Columbia and Alberta, Spokane serves as a commercial, manufacturing, transportation, medical, shopping, and entertainment hub. The city is also the hub for the service industries, and the wholesale and retail trade center of the 80,000 square miles (210,000 km2) Inland Northwest region. Due in part because Spokane is the largest city between Seattle and Minneapolis and because it lies along the route to many regional attractions, tourism is on the rise in the area. Spokane can be a "base camp" for activities such as river rafting, camping, and other activities in the region.