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'You have to remain competitive': Population growth benefits up-and-coming industries | Boomtown

The top three industries in Spokane County are healthcare, government- such as city, county, state and education jobs- and retail and trade.

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. — Spokane serves as the major hub for the Inland Northwest, employing countless people in numerous industries. With the number of people who have moved to the area in the last few years, however, has that changed?

The top three industries in Spokane County are healthcare, government- such as city, county, state and education jobs- and retail and trade, according to Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI). As the Inland Northwest continues to grow, so does the need for these industries' services.

GSI is a non-profit that works to build up the local economy and track the region's top industries. According to their research, the economy in Spokane County is diverse.

"Population growth is good in general, so you're either growing or shrinking," said Gary Ballew, the vice president of economic development for GSI. "So better to grow than shrink."

As the county's population continues to grow, Ballew said the demand for healthcare does, too.

"Health care is usually a large employer, whichever community you're in. But where it's number one in Spokane, that would make us unique," he explained.

MultiCare's Chief Nursing Executive Jennifer Graham knows the demand for healthcare all too well, especially amid an aging population.

"The demand for healthcare isn't going to change, how we deliver healthcare might," Graham said. "People will always need someone to care for them."

GSI also tracks the top five employers in the county:

  1. Fairchild Air Force Base
  2. Providence
  3. Spokane Public Schools
  4. State agencies
  5. Multicare

However, GSI is starting to see opportunities for growth in other industry sectors, including advanced manufacturing, technology and life sciences. 

"There's a list a mile long of great manufacturers we have in this community," Ballew said.

Altek is among GSI's list of growing employers in the region. The Liberty Lake-based advanced manufacturing company specializes in the aerospace, medical, space, technology and defense sectors. 

"If you fly on Boeing's 737s, the lavatories that you use on the plane were made here," said Rick Taylor, the vice president of Altek. "We do everything on the interior of the lavatory except for the bifold door in the mirror."

Taylor said the growing population benefits Altek's continues growth and expansion.

"We are developing a lot of new business, especially in the space industry and the medical industry," he explained. "So we will continue to hire as needed. If you're not growing in technology, you're going backward. You have to remain competitive."

But what about Amazon, which has five facilities throughout Spokane County? GSI said Amazon reports its jobs statewide instead of jurisdictionally. If it did, however, Ballew said it would rank in the top three employers.

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