Interview with Robin Toth
Vice President of Business Development, Greater Spokane Inc.
Robin Toth has been passionate about economic development for over a decade, first with the city of Spokane and now with Greater Spokane Inc. She and her team have been the driving force behind many of the successful relocation decisions that have taken place in the greater Spokane area. This has made Spokane a prime location for health care and manufacturing that allows them to be competitive in the global marketplace. She has done this as a result of her ability to work with partners in the private and public sector and promote the strengths and benefits of the region. Recently she has undertaken another effort that will assist entrepreneurs throughout the eastern part of the state.
Why have you started to add entrepreneurship as part of your economic development strategy?
Greater Spokane Incorporated has been in the economic development business for decades, with traditional recruitment, retention and expansion programs, including government contracting, exporting and small business programs, part of our service portfolio. At the end of 2013, a local entrepreneurial support organization, Connect NW, came to GSI to ask if we would consider handling their entrepreneur programs and networking events. We both agreed that it made sense to incorporate this activity in with our other programs, thereby providing a more complete service to the region.
What is unique about what you are doing?
First of all, we are performing a complete asset and resource inventory of the local and regional support programs for entrepreneurs and looking for a way to communicate that digitally via a web platform. This will make it very easy for startups and entrepreneurs to get connected whether they are looking for funding, trying to find a co-working space, mentoring opportunities or networking with other like-minded community members. In the past, this information was really difficult to find if you were new to the area, or had never tried to take a business idea to implementation. We currently have six different teams that are tasked with figuring out how we can make the Spokane Region the most exciting place to start up a new business venture and achieve success.
In addition, we recently took over the day-to-day lease and management of Share Space Spokane, a local co-working space which creates a great place for startups and emerging entrepreneurs to tweet up to meet up!
How will this program benefit rural communities in addition to the Spokane Community?
Many of our local programs have a broader footprint than just Spokane. For example, chambers of commerce on both sides of the Washington-Idaho stateline work together on a regional legislative agenda for use in both Washington state and Washington DC. In addition, our government contracting person serves 13 counties in Eastern Washington, and we work with other economic development agencies on a regional marketing program. With the Office of Management and Budget’s recent announcement that Spokane, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties are now all part of the Spokane-Spokane Valley MSA, it just makes sense to more closely coordinate these activities as well. This is especially true given that many of the companies in these northern counties are small home-based businesses or startups that need to connect to resources to help them achieve success.
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