by Pia K. Hansen

Not So Healthy? -- SPOKANE -- Most can agree that the healthcare system as we know it is ailing, but few agree on exactly what the cure looks like.

On Friday, Dec. 5, the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce (SRCC) is hosting a health care forum aimed at illuminating what's currently going on in healthcare and how it's going to affect consumers locally and nationally.

"This regional event will identify, discuss and begin to address the core healthcare issues and values that face our nation and region," says Rich Hadley, president and CEO of SRCC.

A key presentation will be given by the Wye River Group on Health, a nonprofit organization comprised of bipartisan, public and private healthcare stakeholders, which recently released a report entitled "Communities Shaping a Vision for America's 21st Century Health and Health Care."

"The Wye River Group is probably the source on speaking on healthcare on a federal level," says Nicole Hillman-Stewart, director of marketing at SRCC. "The important thing is that this report is community-based."

And now Spokane has been invited to participate in the second round of this national healthcare project, which is designed to establish a nationwide healthcare policy driven by community-based input. Only 10 other communities nationwide are part of this research.

"The Wye River Group puts us in the realm of other cities on a national level," says Hillman-Stewart.

The report is based on the results of roundtable discussions held across the nation. Among many things, it found that most Americans have unrealistic expectations about what the current healthcare system can deliver.

The Wye River Report also summarizes input about specific healthcare challenges, such as the role of public health departments, access, quality and information infrastructure.

Key business leaders and representatives from the area's healthcare industry will participate in panel discussions and roundtable conversations.

Register by Dec. 1. The forum takes place on Dec. 5 from 7 am-noon at the Doubletree Hotel, 322 N. Spokane Falls Ct. Cost: $40; $35, Chamber members. Call: 624-1393.

Still Growing -- SPOKANE -- The Spokane International Airport (SIA) is constructing a 32,000-square-foot aircraft maintenance facility, which is expected not only to retain 37 jobs, but also to create 38 new jobs for aircraft mechanics and staff.

To help fund the project, SIA has just received an $800,000 loan and a $200,000 grant from the Washington State Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB). The plan is for Empire Airlines to lease the facility once it's built.

"We have had discussions with Empire Airlines for the last several years regarding this project, but have consistently reached an impasse due to the increased lease rate faced by Empire and the challenge of limited airport funds to construct the facility," says John G. Morrison, executive director of SIA.

A meeting with Empire will be held later this year, determining when construction of the new facility can begin. Once completed, the facility is expected to generate almost $500,000 in state and local revenues.

Let it Snow -- Kellogg, Idaho -- In case you haven't noticed, the snow finally hit. Thursday's snowfall -- officially, the biggest one-day snowstorm to hit Spokane in nine years -- may have been a bane for urban streets, but it was a boon to the region's ski resorts.

"It's a powder paradise up here right now," says Stephen Lane, director of marketing at Silver Mountain. "We have 41 inches altogether, and we'll open on Nov. 25. It's the first time in, like, five years that we have opened before Thanksgiving."

Mount Spokane got a good dusting as well, reporting 16 inches at the ski lodge and 23 inches at the summit. On Monday, plans were still for opening on Dec. 5, but if the snow keeps coming, the mountain may open on Thanksgiving night.

At 49 Degrees North, they've got 21 inches of snow at the top, but haven't selected an opening date just yet.

Lookout Pass, almost always the first local resort to open, has been open for more than a week.

Schweitzer is reporting sunshine and 26 inches of snow at the summit, leading to an early opening day on Nov. 25. Three chairs and a handful of runs will be ready for skiers, who can get lift tickets at reduced prices. But hurry: With the forecast calling for more snow, soon the entire mountain will be in full swing -- and at regular prices.

Publication date: 11/27/03

Northwest Winterfest @ Spokane County Fair & Expo Center

Fridays, 5-8 p.m., Saturdays, 4-8 p.m. and Sundays, 3-6 p.m. Continues through Jan. 1
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