Spokane stacks up favorably next to its urban peers when it comes to cost of living. An annual salary of $37,707 affords the same standard of living that can be had for $50,000 a year in Seattle, according to Sperling's Best Places, mostly because housing is 47 percent cheaper. Spokane is far more affordable than Billings, Boise, Denver and Portland, too. Housing costs for both renters and buyers and low utility costs are the primary contributors to the lower cost of living. The median home price in Spokane is just $131,000. Spokane's cost of living even beats the national average by 9 percent.

Jobs by Gender

In Spokane, female employees dominate the educational services, finance and insurance industries. Meanwhile, men are the primary job holders in the manufacturing, transportation and warehousing fields, according to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2012. The most male-dominated industry is construction, where more than 87 percent of the workers are men. Women have a similar critical mass in health care and social assistance, where they hold 75 percent of the positions. The breakdown for all jobs in 2012 found women filling 51.4 percent and men 48.6 percent.

Innovation Economy

Lately, innovation has come to play a prominent role in Spokane's economy. Centered around the University District's MCKINSTRY STATION INNOVATION CENTER (850 E. Spokane Falls Blvd.), this new employment sector is robust and growing. The McKinstry building is home to a dazzling array of startup companies founded by local entrepreneurs. There's ETAILZ, a data-driven online retailer that began as a business plan pitched in a class at Gonzaga University. Other tenants include the technology company NUVODIA and the canine genetic-testing pioneer PAW PRINT GENETICS. The connection to local universities is strong at McKinstry, and the adjacent manufacturing accelerator space TOOLBOX provides new companies with the expert advice they need to bring their product ideas online. Current tenants are experimenting with aerial drones, new building materials and modular man caves made from recycled shipping containers. "We want to capture the right idea at the right time, and then match it with the right lead and the right team to exercise an awesome startup company," says Toolbox founder Andy Barrett. When those things happen in Spokane, the companies tend to blossom and grow here. "The innovators are the ones that push us to think differently; the innovators are the ones who bring us back and are choosing the city of choice to do their development," says Mayor David Condon.

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