Updated: Social Media presence of Local Media in Spokane

These charts are up to date as of today.

Update March 2013: The new Facebook.com/SpokaneNews web site is crossing through 18,000 shortly and will surpass KREM this spring and probably surpass KHQ by the end of this year.

The previous chart had an error for the Twitter followers of two of the news organizations. Inadvertently, the # of web feeds being followed by the news organizations, rather than their number of followers, had been used in the original chart first published in March of 2012.

Some one with a local news organization identified the error and alerted us to the problem – thank you!

The numbers above refer to the “main news” page – at each organization there are typically pages run by individual departments and reporters and these are not included in the totals.

Washington State cell phone taxes

A Tax Break for Cellphone Users? – SmartMoney.com.

Tip: If you ditch a contract phone and use a pay as you go plan, you pay only sales tax instead.

Washington is the 2nd to the highest tax rate, at the bottom of the chart.

Everything you wanted to know about Downtown Spokane Parking

Interstate 90 in Spokane, Washington

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Even if the report is 7 years out of date now: executive summary a 4-4-05.pdf

I have been down town many times in the past 6 weeks and was struck by the empty parking spaces and garages.  Some garages, like the Parkade, appear to have closed off the top 3 or 4 floors due to lack of people parking down town.

Curious, I found the above linked report from 2004:

Data findings for the general downtown area can be summarized as follows.

  • Overall occupancy of the downtown reaches a peak capacity of 63.8% in the peak hour (i.e., 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.).
  • • At the peak hour, the downtown maintains an available supply of approximately 2,683 on and off-street parking stalls.
  • • The on-street parking systems in the Core and West End Zones of the downtown operate with high turnover and utilization. The Core Zone reaches 89.7% occupancy at its maximum peak hour and the West End reaches 84.4%.
  • • While on-street occupancies are high in the Core and West End Zones, both zones have low utilization of off-street facilities. Off-street facilities in the Core Zone do not exceed peak hour utilization in the mid-60% range, while off-street facilities surveyed in the West End Zone do not exceed the mid-50% range. At its highest peak hour, the Core Zone maintains a minimum of 1,102 available off-street stalls. This relationship underscores the need for a better system of wayfinding/signage, communication, lighting/landscaping and pricing that draws patrons into off-street facilities.
  • • Time stay violations are high in the downtown study area. This is particularly evident in the Core Zone. The situation in the Core Zone is likely the result of the high number of 1-hour meters (and 30-minute meters) in the zone, which is out of sync with a patron’s average time stay of approximately 1.5 hours. A review and reconsideration of the mix of time stay allowances in the Core Zone is recommended. The conversion of 1-hour meters to 90-minute meters was implemented in November 2004.

Since 2004, the economy here has worsened and there appear to more empty spaces at peak times, probably due to an increased number of buildings and office space for sale or lease. In other words, empty buildings.

The normal market response is to lower the price to increase demand.

But Spokane’s response was to reduce the supply of free parking in outlying areas. They did this by expanding the area where parking meters are installed to north of the river (and I think also just south of I-90) under the belief that downtown customers were parking outside the downtown area and walking in to downtown in order to avoid paying for parking.

Now, the city has short term on street parking meters in an area where, well, there are hardly any businesses that need short term parking.  These spaces seem to be mostly unused most of the day. And downtown still has a lot of unused parking spaces. We have a bunch of resources going unused and not being put to productive purposes. Not good.

Why not lower the price? The City can’t. The City uses the parking meter revenue to pay off the costs associated with the River Park Square Parking Garage fraud.  In a city that has too much parking, the city over spent to build a parking garage to add more parking. But this citizen funded infrastructure greatly increased the value of downtown land, which just happens to be owned by … let’s not go there. Besides, they’ll charge us for parking …

Spokane Commercial Real Estate Vacancy Rates

 

Updated as of Mar 13, 2011.  Source: OfficeSpace.com

As always, each firm’s estimate of vacancies is calculated in their own way and estimates vary between real estate firms

History of Spokane Economic Plans – Part 4 – Innovation Economy

By 2000, right at the peak of the “dot com” revolution, and just prior to its crash, Dr. David Kazlow produced an economic study for the City of Spokane’s Mayors Office that called for an expanded role for high tech including software development, IT, bio-tech, electronics manufacturing and medical instrumentation. (Source: www.mrsc.org/GovDocs/S73StratEDPlan.pdf)

This was one of the first reports pointing towards an innovation based economy, although it did not phrase it that way. But as of 2000, this report identified some issues with Spokane’s economy that were causing problems:

  • Lack of recognition nationally/internationally as a business location
  • Lack of industrial location and business development incentives, including tax increment financing and a Port Authority
  • High business taxes (a state level issue)
  • Lack of qualified high tech workers
  • Low percentage of college graduates in the workforce compared to western portion of State (slightly above the U.S. average, but two percentage points below that of the State, based on 1990 Census)
  • Limited availability of quality business/high tech parks
  • Local regulatory and permitting impediments to development
  • Significant areas of the downtown are deteriorating
  • Lack of a strong graduate ­level research capability in the local institutions of higher education

I highlighted the first bullet point – Spokane is suitable for regional businesses but is generally not seen as a location for

An academic hall at Gonzaga University in Spok...

Image via Wikipedia

national and certainly not world-class businesses. (There are exceptions such as Hollister-Stiers, a contract pharma manufacturer, and Itron, a utility industry electrical power meter company.)

I highlighted the last bullet point because that situation has gotten worse since then. As of 2008, EWU graduated one Masters in computer science and three Masters in Biology. WSU-Spokane has a program in exercise science but I do not know how many graduates it produced. There are no other science, technical or engineering graduate degrees offered in the immediate area and no research doctorates. Both Gonzaga and WSU-Spokane previously offered graduate degrees in engineering and/or computer science, depending on how far back we go – but these are no longer offered.

I will come back to this point again because there are several reports that note the need for strong graduate programs in science, technology and engineering in order for Spokane to create a sustainable environment for science and high technology innovation businesses. Without such programs, we will probably not have much of an innovation ecosystem.

Dr. Kazlow also wrote that Spokane should:

Be an internationally competitive region that aggressively advocates business development and investment that raises our employee compensation levels and lowers the region’s poverty rates.

That darned chronic low wage issue rose again in that 2000 report.

Read more of this post

History of Spokane Economic Plans – Part 3 – What They Said Back in 1999

Review Tower

Image by Mike Tigas via Flickr

Interestingly, Spokane had suffered badly in 1999 – adding few jobs to the local economy while the national economy was roaring forwards. The Director of Marketing for the Spokesman-Review, Shaun O.L. Higgins, in his annual state of the local economy presentation, noted that Spokane’s high tech sector had been in decline since the mid 1990s.  (Source: http://www.spokane.net/bus_tech/forecasts/econ/2000AdClubspeech.pdf)

He also noted an on-going problem with Spokane’s marketing efforts being based on  putting lipstick on a pig, rather than confronting and fixing the challenges:

It is safe to assume that we’d have better-paying jobs and quality high-tech jobs if the national job market thought we merited them.  But when our industrial recruiters present our case, we are often found wanting. Rather than blame the recruiters, we need to look seriously at improving the case they have to present.

And he continued on to note:

We should establish a publicly funded, joint city-county Office of Economic Statistics to develop an impartial, reliable, ongoing metrics for planning rather than public-relations purposes.

I could not agree more with his assessment. He is absolutely spot on with the area’s tendency to focus on PR and fluff rather than reality.

He also noted that in 1998, Forbes ranked Spokane 161 out of 162 counties in which to start a tech business, and the Milken Institute ranked Spokane 227 out of 315 MSAs in high tech output growth and said that the lack of high tech growth is “an obstacle to overall economic well-being”.

Spokane International Airport

This picture was taken from the Spokane Intern...

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Spokane International Airport does not actually have international flight arrivals or departures. But they do have facilities for processing passengers through customs, when that time comes.

More data on the airport is available here.