After a nearly 20 year absence, I returned to the area in 2004 and Airway Heights appeared to have changed very little. In contrast, it has shown a great deal of change in these last 13 years.
In all fairness, there had been change while I was gone; the Airway Heights Correction Centre had appeared on the landscape in 1992 as well as the the Northern Quest Casino and Resort in 2000.
Driving down Highway 2, the main drag of Airway Heights looked pretty much the same as it had looked nearly 20 years before. There were dozens of little mom and pop's businesses lining both sides of the highway. The most prominent business along the highway was still Pac 'n Save; it didn't even have the Yoke's branding that we see today.
Much of the expansion we see has happened in the last decade or so. The new businesses on the east end of town including the Wal-Mart Superstore started appearing just a little over a decade ago. Now there are banks, restaurants, fast food, tire stores, auto part stores, mobile phone stores, gas stations, car dealerships, barbers, and all types of specialty stores and businesses.
The center of Airway Heights, as far as commerce is concerned is now Highway 2 and Hayford Rd. Before 2012 the city of Airway Heights ended at Hayford Rd. That is when the newly developed area to the east of Hayford was annexed and became part of the city.
There has also been a city annex to the west of Craig Rd. Airway Heights now extends out past the Spoko Fuel to the west. The Spokane Tribe of Indians owns a large piece of land on the west side of Craig Rd and the north side of Highway 2. They have plans to build a casino there and if it goes through, it will be located in the city of Airway Heights.
In addition to the business expansion, there has also been a lot of housing expansion. There are new housing developments and apartments on the eastern annex; east of Hayford Rd. There are also many new single family homes on the north end of town expanding towards the Airway Heights Correction Center and Spokane Raceway Park.
Today the population of Airway Heights is 6,449. That is an increase of over 40% since the beginning of the millennium. The median age in Airway Heights is 35.3 which is just 2 years younger than the state median age. With a 66.5% male population, there are nearly twice as many males as females. The median household annual income for Airway Heights is $36,351.
The city of Airway Heights was incorporated in 1955 and it got its name from its proximity to Geiger Field; Spokane Municipal Airport at that time and Fairchild Air Force Base. Today Fairchild Air Force Base employees about 7,000 government and civilian workers and is one of the largest employers in the county.
Employing 1,489 workers, the Northern Quest Casino & Resort owned by the Kalispell Tribe is also one of Spokane County's major employers. Northern Quest has a 55,000 square foot game floor with 1,500 slot machines in addition to game and poker tables. They have a 250 room luxury hotel and numerous restaurants and lounges.
Airway Heights Correction Center is also a major Employer with 700 full time employees and 200 volunteers. Airway Heights Correction Center is a state men's prison that was built in 1992.
About 8 miles west of Spokane, Airway heights is a short 10 minute drive from downtown. Located on the northeast corner of the Columbia Plateau, it is about 500 feet higher in elevation than Downtown Spokane. Like most of the Columbia River Plateau, Airway Heights is built on the scabland created by the Missoula Floods over 13,000 years ago.
With all of its new commercial and residential growth, Airway Heights has turned from a sleepy little town along Highway 2 to a major player in Spokane County.
Written by:Todd Hays