Editorial: Tech Hub key to housing solutions
North Idaho is one of the safest, cleanest, best places to live. It’s the kind of place that visitors from around the world often dare dream, “Man, I sure would love to live here.”
But exorbitant housing costs coupled with paucity of well-paying jobs are dream killers. However, last week’s announced federal designation of the Coeur d’Alene-Spokane region as one of just 31 U.S. Tech Hubs very well could go a long way in making many of those dreams come true. Consider that 400 applications were winnowed to 31 winners.
The designation advances our region to the next phase, which will select a handful of the 31 to receive tens of millions of dollars to bolster their technological infrastructure and innovations. The centerpiece of the local coalition’s proposal includes the American Aerospace Materials Manufacturing Center, which would combine applied education research, workforce training and advanced production. It would be principally located in a 386,000-square-foot repurposed manufacturing facility near Spokane International Airport but have a tremendous positive impact across the entire region.
You’ll be reading more about the Tech Hub in the months and years ahead, but for now let’s do a little day dreaming ourselves.
With projections that literally thousands of well-paying jobs could spring naturally from the regional coalition’s efforts with — or perhaps even without — huge boosts of federal dollars, a key element of the housing crisis would be eased. The biggest barrier is affordability, so the infusion of powerful income streams would raise all levels of living here.
While North Idaho has become a haven for well-off retirees — people who generally are very positive additions to any community — economists warn that this long-term trend isn’t sustainable. Who will staff our superb medical facilities, teach our kids and our grandkids, police our streets and perhaps most importantly, create valuable new businesses that will improve quality of life across the board?
Younger, well-educated professionals and other skilled workers are needed now and many more will be needed as our region grows. As much as retirees contribute to the good life, somebody’s got to do the work, and the infusion of youthful vigor, brains and creativity would strengthen the demographic profile — and perhaps create excellent opportunities for our talented children and grandchildren to return home.
The local coalition’s Tech Hub is headed by Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh, but key players include hundreds of local businesses and individuals. Key participants from Kootenai County are North Idaho College, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the cities of Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls, the Coeur d’Alene Economic Development Corp. and the Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber.
Long (and far) may you run.