Closed for business in Spokane

Obviously, in this recession, there are many businesses that have closed, both small and large. These photos were going to be mostly on prominent large employers who have left Spokane but I have not had a chance to stop by all of them. Photos were taken between June and August of 2010.

Unlike the closure of a large number of retail outlets (some pictured), these large company closures each resulted in the loss of hundreds to thousands of jobs that have not been replaced by equivalent skill and wage jobs.

I believe the large company closures are a structural change in Spokane and not entirely due to the recession – the big closures have been occurring for the past decade.

A major marketed competitive advantage of Spokane as a place to run your big business or factory has been low costs due to low wages and inexpensive real estate. But the past 10 to 12 years have seen the rapid explosion of even cheaper off shoring opportunities. Being a cheap place to do business is no longer sufficient – many of the businesses that left (not all picture) moved off shore or consolidated their work into lower cost existing facilities elsewhere in the United States.

More on this topic yet to come.

Related posts:

Economic planners today look at “industry clusters” to foster network effects that should lead to more efficient, more competitive local industry.  They also talk about the importance of “traded clusters” – typically businesses that make things that are sold elsewhere, versus local clusters. But “traded clusters” can also include higher education that bring students and money in from elsewhere or financial services like the old Metropolitan Financial (bankrupt, financial fraud scandal).  Retail and services (like car repair) are often “local clusters” that do not bring in wealth from elsewhere. (More on this topic is available here:

What you will see, below, is that our “traded clusters” manufacturing industry has been gutted. Education and regional health care services have continued to grow as Spokane has shifted to being a mostly service-based economy.

United Coatings plant, founded here in 1919. Now closed in Spokane. Moved to a cheaper spot in Arizona. The building is for sale.  This was a “traded cluster” company.

Along Trent, a major east-west 4 lane highway and Argonne Rd, a major north-south 4 to 6 lane road in Spokane Valley, is this line of now vacant offices and retail shops. Half of the businesses as far as the eye can see, are gone and the buildings are for lease or for sale.

A small glimpse into the huge Agilent facility in Liberty Lake, now vacant and for sale. This facility was said to have been responsible for 1,600 direct jobs and up to 400 vendor/contract/temporary workers.  Nearly all of those jobs were moved over seas to cheaper locations than Spokane County. How did so many workers fit in to this space? The manufacturing part of the facility ran multiple shifts.

This was a “traded cluster” company.

(A commenter notes that the Agilent facility is reported to have sold in June. However, the photograph, below, showing the for sale sign, was taken in mid-August of 2010.  There are still For Sale signs up around the facility so it is unclear what that means. Fall Update: As of this fall, it is slated to become the “Meadowwood Technology Office Park”.)

The For Sale sign outside the Agilent property. Due to trees, hills and huge parking lots, it is difficult to get a photo that captures the size of this facility.

I believe this is the old Columbia Lighting factory – but might have been Columbia Paints – can make out the faded area where the “Columbia” part of the name used to be on the building but not the “Lighting” or “Paints” part!  Closed in Spokane and moved elsewhere. This building is now empty and available. 560 jobs lost. This was a “traded cluster” company.

General Dynamics bought the locally founded Itronix in 2007. In 2007, they shut down the Spokane Valley operation – 380 jobs lost. General Dynamics moved the work to an existing plant they had in Florida. Rumor was they saw diminishing avionics work at their Florida plant – and it was either going to be laying off workers there or laying them off in Spokane. They chose to layoff the Spokane workforce and move the electronic products of Itronix to their design and manufacturing plant in Florida, saving those jobs. This building is now empty and available for lease. Great building – great location – and much bigger than it appears in this photo. This was a “traded cluster” company.

(Update Sep 27 – this building is now partially occupied – I understand a firm moved over from Post Falls, ID in to this as their new home. Like I said – great building, great location!)

And across the street in front of the empty General Dynamics building is this additional office space, also empty. Just down the road, another whole building is empty and the adjacent building to that appears to be 75% empty.

Every building and vacant lot that you can see here, from the left of the photo to as far distant as you can see to the right – is empty, for sale, or for lease. This is on N. Washington, just across the street from the Spokane Arena.

Behind me, when I took the above photo, are the following two empty buildings:

Felts Field Aviation, the only Fixed Base Operator (FBO) at Felts Field, is now out of business. Their old building sits vacant and their hangar was torn down and removed. With the exception of Inland NW Helicopters, there is no longer any flight training, aircraft rentals, nor any flying clubs at Felts Field Airport, the 2nd oldest airport in the western U.S. This was partially a “traded cluster” company in that they provided services to arriving aircraft that are no longer available.

Parts of Spokane Valley are a ghost town of empty buildings and empty offices, such as this one.

Almost across the street, the church building (not shown, at left) is for sale, and the next building is for lease. I am standing in a small strip mall housing offices and retail and while the spaces are mostly leased, the entire mall is for sale. Across the street to my right (not shown) is another empty building.

A strip mall at Broadway and Argonne/Mullan Rds – three of the five units went out of business and sit vacant. Since this photo was taken, a yogurt shop has opened in one of the empty shop spaces.

Along Sprague in the Spokane Valley. I am standing next to an old China King Buffet restaurant which went out of business perhaps two years ago. Across the street – just a bit of a brown building showing at left, is the former National Golf Emporium shop, also out of business and vacant for the past two years. I believe only a bar remains open in that small strip mall at left. Then there is an empty weed infested lot for sale, and the reddish roof building own the street is a closed KFC, now all boarded up and for sale. The vacant buildings and weeds are giving Spokane an appearance of urban decay.

Harley dealer. Bankrupt. I understand that about one and half years after closure, the Court has approved the sale of the building and the inventory to another motorcycle dealer and they hope to soon re-open this closed building.

The following two were previously posted on this web site.

The old Kaiser Aluminum Mead Smelter plant, now closed. Employed about 2,400 workers prior to closure. The land is for sale and it is expected that, if it sells, the buyer will tear down all the old buildings. The interior of the buildings have already been gutted.  This was a “traded cluster” company.

Old Rahco factory – about 95% of this facility is now closed and vacant. This was a “traded cluster” company.

Note – click on the image for 7k pixel wide panorama – you can then scroll from side to side in your browser.

No photo, but national women’s clothing retailer has closed its downtown Spokane store and may leave the area for good. The Rosauer’s Grocery store in Deer Park has just announced that it too is closing; Rosauer’s runs several excellent grocery stores throughout the Spokane and Eastern Washington area.  They say the Deer Park store is closing due to competition from bigger stores in the Spokane area.

On the positive side, there is plenty of real estate available at very good prices! From heavy manufacturing, to light manufacturing, to office and retail – the prices I’ve seen for leased spaces are great deals right now.

The KHCO.COM web site, showing only KHCO listings, lists about 225 business properties for sale or lease, ranging from huge buildings to small offices inside office centers. KHCO is just one of many real estate firms in the area that also list their own properties.  You can also check out,,, and many others.

3 Responses to Closed for business in Spokane

  1. The Agilent site sold to Greenstone, which plans to develop it as a technology campus. This was reported in the Spokesman in May and June of this year.

    Barb Chamberlain

  2. inlandnw says:

    That would be good news. Why do they still have the For Sale signs posted on the property?

    That particular photo was taken this past weekend (August 14-15, 2010) and there were still several For Sale signs posted around the old plant.

    It is an outstanding facility and location.

  3. Pingback: Economic Gardening – Solving Spokane’s Economic Challenges « Spokane Economic And Demographic Data

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