Update: Major tech/manufacturing firms leave Spokane

I previously documented what happened to a large number of high tech and manufacturing firms that left Spokane during the past decade, as well as during just the past two to three years in “Major manufacturing and high tech employers close, leave Spokane” which provides a long list of firms that closed or downsized.

The Spokesman-Review today looks at what happened to some of the workers who used to be with Itronix (closed) and Agilent (closed) with anecdotal stories.  See Two years later, Spokane’s laid-off tech workers regroup – Spokesman.com – March 13, 2011.

Be sure to read the comments that readers have added to that story. Readers are saying the same things reflected in the data collected on this web site.

Some engineers have retired. Some have moved outside the area. Some found telecommuting work elsewhere. Some switched to other fields, with lower incomes. Some are involved in start ups here.  Some have returned to school.  Many suggest they would have moved elsewhere but were stuck due to family obligations or because of difficulties selling their home.

From a local economy standpoint, the start ups that may have been spun out of these losses are the best opportunity to translate the tech down slide into a longer term upside. I thought this was a positive story but then I read their “related” story … ugh.


The SR has a companion article “Area companies gained tech skills” that can only be described as Orwellian BS.  This revisionist article, based on anecdotes, implies we’ve only lost around 500 tech jobs. Which is misleading by setting the start of the downsizing to just a year or two ago – and goes against other SR reports that peg total losses at about 20,000 during the decade. But from that false premise they can then lead to a positive outcome.

They quote a local economist saying he’s “seen data” (secret data?) that shows tech companies “adding plenty of jobs in the past 12 months”. Doesn’t show up in the WorkForceExplorerc.com data which has been updated through January 2011 by the Washington State Employment Security Department. Tech jobs are likely to show up in the big category of Information (software is a tiny subset) and Professional and Business Services (again, a subset) or in Manufacturing. Let’s take a look at the charts through January 2011:

The news story is one of the most misleading pieces of reporting I have  seen in the Spokesman-Review in quite a while. Which  is why I try to always link to the original data. I do not make up the data. Anecdotal stories can be helpful to understand the narrative but they usually need to agree with the data.

A commenter claims that the Washington State data is simply all wrong. But in addition to the above industry sector charts, total jobs remain way down since 2007. I am sorry that the data is ugly.

A future post will discuss the common practice of “hide the decline” with examples and naming the organizations that do it. But part 1 will highlight some organizations that are honest and go out of the way to make their data accessible and presentable for the public. They are to be commended.