Spokane North Notes
A weekly bulletin of the Spokane-North Rotary Club
March 2, 2015
Editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink
Photo: Eric Johnson
Program Coordinator: Jim Minkler
          Help wanted:  President-elect Lenore Romney needs a few good men and women to help staff her board of officers and directors for the 2015-16 Rotary year.  She promises a great opportunity for club members to play a larger role in service to the community.  Enlist now and avoid the draft.
          Start your engines: Jodi Harland, coordinator of the annual fund-raising social event, notes that it is time to start soliciting corporate sponsors and prospective ticket-buyers for the club’s Hawaiian party, Thursday, June 4, at The Backyard on West Broadway.  Tickets will be available soon.
A snapshot of Spokane, by the numbers
            March 2 was a homecoming of sorts for Patrick Jones.
            One of Spokane’s pre-eminent economists, Jones provided the club with a first look at new data which helps define Spokane’s place in the state and country.
            Jones recalled a previous visit to speak to the club several years ago, when Rotary-North met at the Red Lion Inn at the Park.  But his Rotary roots date to club meetings at the former Casey’s Restaurant (now CSL Plasma) on North Monroe, when Patrick’s dad, Clair N. Jones, a founding member of our club in 1954, occasionally brought his son to luncheon meetings.
            Clair Jones operated the area’s Harvey’s clothing stores.  After spending some time in the family business, Patrick, a longtime Club 21 Rotarian, and chair of the downtown club’s international service committee, has been executive director of the EWU Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis since that bureau’s inception in 2002.
            Patrick also was a director of the SIRTI business development agency and the Biotechnology Association of the Spokane Region.
            Jones presented the latest data in the Spokane Community Indicators Project, “a big encyclopedia of who we are in Spokane County.”  The project, launched in 2006, compares 185 indicators with state and national norms.  Many of the countywide indicators also are broken out with City of Spokane and Spokane Valley measurements.
            Drawing from Rotary’s 4-Way test, Jones said his first concern about the economic data: “is it the truth?”  Another parameter is “will it improve decision-making?”
            If the stereotypical description says Spokane County is a place for old folks where most of the jobs are governmental, Jones has median census data to challenge those notions.
            “We hear all the time that we are an old town, but (at a median age of 37.4 years) not compared to the U.S. and Washington,” Jones said.  He adds that median age in the city is five years younger than in the Valley.
            One stereotype that is proven, he said, “is that we’ve been a small household community forever.”  The city, especially, has more than 16,000 single-parent families, or some 39 percent.  “Think about the consequences for school districts,” Jones said.
            Another proven stereotype is Spokane’s status as a low-wage town.  County median income at $47,576 a year, is far less than the state and national median incomes, he said.  “We have flat-lined on wages for many, many years,” he said, adding, the median annual income in the city was only $39,385.
            Where do people work?  With Fairchild, plus public colleges and universities, plus regional offices of state and federal agencies, the “government town” tag seems apt.  “But we are a health care town, not a government town,” Jones said.
            The government jobs in Spokane County are about the same proportion as state and national rates, he said.  But the health care industries employ 17 percent of the county workforce, compared with just 11 percent statewide, Jones said.
            Spokane County has a larger retail worker proportion than statewide (12.5 to 9.6 percent), but a far lower percentage of manufacturing workers (7.4 percent to 9.6 percent), he said.
            What about the education level?  Spokane has far fewer workers with a bachelor’s degree or advanced degrees, but “it’s just the opposite with workers having ‘some college’ or an associate (community college) degree.”
            Another education indicator shows improvement.  The high school graduation rate, “something where we are trying to move the needle,” Jones said, has increased to 82 percent in Spokane County, compared with 77 percent three years earlier, and 10 percent less 10 years ago.
            All of the data are available at spokanetrends.org.