SPOKANE — Spokane is a good place to locate agricultural businesses and support services, the city’s mayor says.
The city is folding agriculture into its Choose Spokane initiative to bolster existing agricultural and forestry businesses and attract new ones, Mayor David Condon told the Capital Press.
“Ag has been a huge piece of who we are,” Condon said. “Companies could come here and tap into something that’s been foundational for us for a couple hundred years.”
Business sectors and industries typically have four levels, Condon said. The primary level is growing or mining a product. The second level is the manufacturing or processing of that product. The third level is support services. The fourth level is knowledge, innovation and technology.
When it comes to agriculture, Condon says, many people think of the primary level, based in rural Eastern Washington. He sees great potential for Spokane to host the other three levels.
“Where is the processing happening? Where are the wineries, breweries, cideries, distilleries in that area? They’re in the urban centers,” Condon said. “Maybe not in Spokane, but in smaller communities where you see the food processors. ... Those are clearly in urban environments.”
Condon also points to property management companies, legal services, financing, research and technology.
Spokane has a unique potential to be a hub for commodities, Condon said.
Spokane could appeal to companies dealing with intellectual property development, venture capital or various services. It can also help when agricultural production, energy use and health intersect, Condon said.
“The urban center is key to the agricultural industry, and vice versa,” he said. “We can’t live without the Ritzvilles, Spangles and Colfaxes of the world.”
The city is analyzing its strengths and weaknesses to gain a better idea of the industry’s needs and what’s already being done in the support and research sectors, Condon said.
“Where are the business cluster networking opportunities for what’s happening specifically in the ag world?” he said.
The AgriBusiness Council for Greater Spokane Inc., the city’s business organization, suggested Condon visit with various commodity commissions to see if they’ve considered moving their headquarters to Spokane or to using the city to launch major national initiatives, he said.
“Can we be part of the manufacturing, the processing, the research, part of the innovation?” he said. “Absolutely.”
Jay Allert, chairman of the AgriBusiness Council, hopes the effort could lead to more companies starting or relocating to Spokane.
Condon has long recognized the importance of agriculture to the city, Allert said.
“He’s a very progressive mayor and wants to create as friendly a climate for business as possible,” Allert said.
Condon expects the recruitment program to continue beyond the end of his term in December.
“Eastern Washington has been at the forefront in ag, but we need to continue that,” Condon said. “The urban environment is key to the success of the agricultural industry. Spokane is poised to be that. We are really at the hub of all your key commodities and food and agricultural production.”