Commission gets economic outlook

Cheney faces challenges when it comes to attracting businesses


January 25, 2018

Is Cheney ready for a KFC?

Maybe, but right now, it’s likely Kentucky Fried Chicken isn’t ready to be in Cheney.

This and other aspects of local economic development were part of the Cheney Planning Commission’s Jan. 8 meeting. The meeting featured a presentation on economic development by senior planner Brett Lucas that dovetailed into a discussion on what issues the commission wants to tackle in 2018.

In the KFC example, Lucas said right now there isn’t enough business being done for Louisville Kentucky-based chicken franchise to locate in the city. The reason is based not on what KFC could make, but on what another competitor is pulling down.

Lucas said a national data base used by restaurant chains — Intalytics out of Ann Arbor, Michigan — indicates the Cheney McDonald’s franchise has annual sales of around $1.2 million.

According to KFC’s requirements, Lucas said McDonald’s needs to do more than $2 million locally before a Cheney site is considered.

There are other challenges as well, such as a location that encourages driving populations to stop and pick up dinner and the number of average daily trips along State Route 904. Past traffic surveys have pegged this at under 20,000.

By contrast, Airway Heights — which has a KFC franchise — averages 40,000 or more along U.S. Highway 2 towards Spokane.

But fast food isn’t the only thing on economic development planners minds. Commissioner Vince Barthels pointed out the number of vacant buildings along First Street and asked if there are incentives the city could give to help owners put businesses in those spaces.

Lucas noted that in many cases, filling those vacancies is more up to the building owner than the city. As an example, he pointed to the First Street building that was home to Chase Bank.

The building is for sale for $710,000 if it’s to be used for a non-bank/non-credit union purpose. Lucas said a property deed restriction requires its future use as a bank — driving the selling price in that case to $900,000.

“I can do all the economic development in the world, if this is the price Chase wants to sell it, it will sit there on the market,” he said.

Lucas also said other properties were going for a premium value when it comes to a price per square foot — in some cases $24 per square foot.

“Cheney is an 80 cents per square foot town,” he added.

Lucas pointed out a number of key factors and trends in his presentation that dictate economic development success and failure, noting it’s the private sector and larger government institutions that drive economies. Local government can play a facilitator role through controlling some local taxes and utility rates, permitting processes and infrastructure development along with planning practices.

Spokane County is seeing solid job growth in a number of industries such as health care and social assistance, the retail trade and accommodation and food services. These areas, along with construction and finance and insurance are pulling in jobs from other areas.

On the flip side, jobs are being lost in fields such as administrative support and waste management, professional, scientific and technical services and manufacturing.

“These are the areas we need to cherry pick and bring in to the (Cheney) economy,” Lucas said of the latter category.

Public Works Director Todd Ableman told the commission economic development is part of city’s comprehensive plan and something that can be discussed in the future. Commissioner Rick Mount said it’s also important to look at the availability of single-family residences.

“Cheney doesn’t have a good supply of houses,” Mount said. “They’re building houses in Airway Heights, but not so much in Cheney. How do we communicate with developers there’s a market here?”

Other commissioners agreed, stressing the importance of offering a good quality of life in the city. Commissioner Dan Turbeville noted the commission has brought up the need for the city to hire an individual dedicated to economic development, but was subsequently shot down.

“We can’t just bungle along and hope for people to come in,” he added.



– Shredfast 1453 W. First St. (50-60 jobs)

– Bitcoin/server farm on Harman/AMX site

– JC Steel Targets looking at building in Commerce and Industrial Park


– EWU PUB completion

– EWU Science Building

– Cheney High School and Betz Elementary expansions


– Parkside Commons

– Cheney Park Apartments

– Harvest Bluff phases 4 and 5

– Golden Hills phases 5 and 6

John McCallum can be reached at


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