In the northwestern part of the U.S., the Spokane region serves as the hub for business, transportation, culture and industry in the area. Spokane, Washington is located in what is known as the Inland Northwest, which has more than 1.4 million people, according to the city’s Chamber of Commerce Web site. It is located in the far eastern portion of Washington, 18 miles west of the Idaho state line and 100 miles away from the Canadian border.
In 2007, there were over 450,000 people in Spokane County. The population of the area has increased steadily each year, with a jump of 7,400 from 2006 to 2007. Spokane County estimates that there could be a population of 509,662 in 2010. The growth of both the region’s population and jobs have continued to surpass national trends in recent years.
The local economy consists of a diverse mix, ranging from companies working in new technologies as well as manufacturing and agriculture. The area is teeming with small businesses, as 88 percent of the companies have fewer than 20 employees. Recently, Forbes Magazine ranked Spokane No. 9 out of 200 Metropolitan Statistical Areas in its list of “Best Places for Businesses and Careers,” up from the previous year’s position of 20.
Natural resources, and mining them, have been a major source of economic activity for Spokane County, providing timber, agriculture and mining industries. Recently, many businesses have been drawn to the area because of the raw materials as well as the low-cost hydropower, largely provided by the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The Spokane region has some of the most competitive energy costs in the nation, with natural gas provided by a single private utility and electricity provided by both publicly-owned and privately-owned utilities.
The Spokane region is located on north-south and east-west transportation routes serviced by rail, highways and an international airport. Because of the growth in the area, the Washington State Department of Transportation has aggressively improved major local throughways to try to prevent traffic problems. Although the Spokane International Airport is the second largest airport in the state of Washington, it is recognized by the FAA as a small hub.
Hydroelectric power is not only an important source of energy in Spokane, but also for all of Washington. The state is the leading hydroelectric power producer in the U.S., making up nearly three-fourths of Washington’s electricity, according to the Energy Information Administration. The Grand Coulee hydroelectric power plant is the highest capacity electric plant in the country.
Washington is the refining center for the Pacific Northwest, with five refineries. Even though it has no crude oil production on its own land, oil comes via tanker from Alaska. However, Alaskan production is in decline, so crude oil imports from Canada and other countries are becoming increasingly important. The EIA reports the Trans Mountain Pipeline from Alberta supplies more than one-tenth of Washington’s crude oil supply. The use of oxygenated motor gasoline is required in the Spokane area during the winter months. There are 3,086 gasoline stations in the state, according to the 2008 NPN Station Count. The state’s average price per gallon of regular gasoline for this year is $3.692, not including