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Spokane’s future industry clusters:
- Retirees and transfer payments
- Health care services and health care academics
- Government, including education
- Low skill, low wage categories including retail, restaurants, hotels, recreation, trucking, warehousing.
- Various small categories including low skilled and high skilled workers.
Categories 1, 2 and 3 will account for 60+% of the local economy. Here’s the number of workers, per category, flipped from horizontal to vertical to present the relative size differences. Retirees and transfer payments are not shown in the chart but would be in the top 3.
Here is the impact of transfer payments. As you can see, transfer payments are a large component of the local economy. For more information on transfer payments please see “Trend of Transfer Payments into Spokane County“.
Data Data from washington.reaproject.org
Previously, many people retired from Southern California and took their large real estate capital gains to low cost Spokane. That source of retirees is diminished due to the housing collapse and its return in the future is not predictable. This is an important driver for health care, housing and service sectors. Inbound migration may be at reduced levels for a long time.
The State adopted an industrial clustering policy where the state selects the industry clusters to be supported in each region. The primary clusters for Spokane are health care, education, and trucking and warehouse operations. Manufacturing has been in a slow national decline for 30 years.
Health care is on a growth streak due to retirees, a doubling in individual use of medical services over the past 30 years, and more recently by expectations of “ObamaCare” leading to an expectation of increased demand for services primarily paid for by someone else.
The loss of retirees from Southern California produces risks to the area’s current strategy and may be why the 2011’s local economy continues to remain stuck well below 2007 levels. On the plus side, the nation’s overall large “baby boom” approaches retirement years. However, where they choose to settle in their retirement years will have a big impact – and some think relocating as part of retirement may be thing of the past, not of the future.
There is a risk that the health care act might not play out as expected. It is possible that court challenges may limit the growth in the health business sector.
There is a risk that shifting more money into health care services without addressing the exorbitant prices charged and excess consumer demand for health services paid for by other people means less money for the production side of the economy. This is not a sustainable path.
Spokane’s future is based on retirees and health care – but that future has risks. And a big risk is there is no plan B.
Low Wages Are By Design
Greater Spokane says our region’s primary competitive advantage is low wages and low land and housing costs (or stated another way, poverty). Per Greater Spokane, our region’s competitive advantage is low prices. And no one in power wants that to change.
Spokane will be the state’s low wage, low cost housing and low cost land destination. This appears to be by design.
Outside of the key clusters, wages and opportunities will be limited.
The substantial quantity of data collected on this web site, and reviews of all the economic plans going back to the 1980s show that the chronic low wages and limited opportunities are endemic to Spokane. Every one of the plans mentions these problems. These problems remain because not many people want to embrace change – low wages are a feature and are by design. The area is settling into a future as a comfortable government-funded enclave of government and health care workers, and retirees collecting benefits.
Everything on this website has been mentioned before, often many times, in prior economic studies about Spokane. What I present on this website is not my opinion but is backed by data and numerous studies. This view is shared by business leaders of the past, by various politicians, current and former academic administrators and many more. The data tell this story, not me.
See the recommendations links at the right of this page. Lots of bad decisions were made in the past.
It’s been an interesting experience to go from wondering why so many businesses disappeared to finding out what really happened. The answer was not at all what was expected.
Unfortunately, no one cares. It’s always been this way in Spokane. As a friend said to us in the 90s, “It’s just a big small town, only bigger.” So true. (Well, at least one other person gets it…)
And nothing will change.
This web site will now be updated primarily for major events or changes.