Growing Spokane, Washington, sheds its sleepy metropolis picture

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) – Ramsey and Amy Pruchnic lived within the Seattle space for 5 years earlier than deciding they needed to flee the Puget Sound rat race and transfer nearer to household on the other aspect of the state.

Now they personal their very own companies and reside in a 1928 farmhouse on 10 rural acres they purchased simply south of Spokane, close to the Idaho border, the place they’re elevating three kids and 18 chickens.

“The honeymoon phase of Seattle wore off,” stated Amy Pruchnic, 31, who simply opened a specialty doughnut store in a hip growth downtown. “Why not work in a town like Spokane?”

The Pruchnics are amongst a wave of recent residents in Washington’s second-largest metropolis, which is experiencing a rising inhabitants due to extra jobs and an inflow of individuals leaving bigger West Coast cities.

They embrace younger households just like the Pruchnics – many seeking cheaper housing, simpler commutes, good colleges and a work-life stability – and retirees with disposable earnings.

“We are getting both ends of the spectrum,” stated Todd Mielke, chief govt of Greater Spokane Incorporated, the area’s chamber of commerce. The pattern can be seen in different midsize western cities like Boise, Idaho, as individuals flee hovering housing prices up and down the West Coast.

Spokane has lengthy been often called a sleepy place with sluggish development that chugged alongside within the shadow of a lot bigger and richer Seattle, 280 miles (450 kilometers) west. But the nation’s financial restoration has lastly trickled all the way down to the town of practically 220,000.

Spokane doesn’t have a dominant employer like Boeing or Microsoft. But it does have numerous smaller corporations, plus a rising variety of good-paying jobs in authorities, larger training and drugs. Fairchild Air Force Base stays the area’s largest single employer.

It’s excellent news for a metropolis that suffered throughout the Great Recession.

“We’ve exceeded the job level at the peak of the last expansion,” stated Grant Forsyth, chief economist for Avista Corp., the area’s electrical and fuel utility. “We have recovered all of the lost jobs and then some.”

Numbers inform the story.

The Spokane Metropolitan Statistical Area, consisting of Spokane and adjoining Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, had 232,500 jobs in 2007, simply earlier than the recession. In March the world reported 244,700 jobs.

An enormous thriller undertaking proposed close to the Spokane International Airport was lately revealed to be an Amazon achievement heart. The constructing will likely be greater than 2.5 million sq. ft (232,300 sq. meters), have greater than 1,500 full-time staff and value $181 million. Construction has already began.

Amazon will be one of the largest businesses in the Spokane region,” Mielke said, and it might lure others.

Meanwhile, the Spokane metro area’s population grew from 470,000 in 2000 to 556,000 in 2016. Throw in the 150,000 residents of adjacent Kootenai County, Idaho, and the combined statistical area has 710,000 residents.

The state estimated Spokane County added 7,270 residents in 2016, the most in nearly a decade.

The rising population has jolted the housing market.

The median sale price of a home in Spokane County was $240,000 in May, up $32,000 from May 2017, the Spokane Association of Realtors said. Demand for homes outstrips supply. Still, recently named Spokane first among “10 Affordable Midsize Cities.”

Spokane is surrounded by large lakes, five ski areas, mountains and rivers, and outdoor recreation has always been a draw. It also has a lively nightlife and literary scene and lots of new upscale dining choices.

National Geographic Traveler magazine recently named Spokane one of 29 “Cities on the Rise,” noting the region is “hipster friendly” and “caffeinated.” Spokane has shown up on numerous other rankings of cool cities in recent years.

That has local newspaper columnist Shawn Vestal thinking it might be time for locals to retire the whole “Spokane doesn’t suck” attitude when talking to outsiders.

“There’s no reason to go around insisting that something doesn’t suck when it truly doesn’t suck,” Vestal, also an award-winning fiction writer, opined.

Mielke said Spokane’s secret weapon might be higher education. The area is home to Eastern Washington, Gonzaga and Whitworth universities, plus a large branch campus of Washington State University that includes one of the nation’s newest medical schools. There are also two large community colleges.

Enrollment is growing rapidly. About 40,000 college students live in the immediate Spokane region, and more than 70,000 within a 100-mile (160-kilometer) radius, Mielke said, providing an educated workforce.

People in bigger cities are noticing.

The Seattle Times reported that in recent years more than 2,000 people per year move from King County to Spokane County. That’s more than move to Phoenix or Portland, Oregon, the newspaper reported.

For the Pruchnics – trying to juggle jobs and children in the booming and crowded Seattle area – the move was a no-brainer.

Ramsey Pruchnic worked for Microsoft when the family lived in suburban Issaquah. Now he runs an advertising agency.

His wife looked around for a fun business to start and settled on doughnuts, despite no professional baking experience. Her shop, called Hello Sugar, is packed with customers – in yet another sign that Spokane is flourishing.

The Pruchnics have become ambassadors for their new home.

“We’re trying to convince our friends in Issaquah to come over here,” Amy Pruchnic said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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