Forbes cites Tri-Cities as 11th geekiest city in U.S.

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldAugust 10, 2011 

Forbes has conducted a statistical search for the geekiest towns in America and found what Tri-Citians already know.

The Tri-Cities ranks near the top for the highest percentage of smart people, as measured by the number of workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics professions.

It ranks the Tri-Cities as the 11th geekiest city in the nation, just after Seattle at No. 10 -- that's plenty of geekiness but with sunnier weather.

A little more than 11 percent of Tri-City workers, or 9,700, work in science and technology fields, while Seattle has 11.8 percent at 167,060, according to Forbes.

There are three reasons for Seattle's ranking -- Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft.

No. 1 on the list is San Jose, Calif., at the heart of Silicon Valley, with 18.2 percent of its work force employed in science and technology professions.

But in the Tri-Cities, it's more than the numbers considered by Forbes that add to its geeky appeal.

Few other cities in the country name their streets after scientific heroes, chemical elements and subatomic particles.

In Richland, people live or work on Einstein Avenue, Curie Street, Proton Lane and Mercury Drive.

Tri-Citians buy groceries at Atomic Foods, bowl at Atomic Bowl and drink at Atomic Ale Brewpub and Eatery. Babies are dressed in onsies with the warning symbol for radioactive waste on the backside, thanks to Octopus' Garden in Richland.

While the Forbes article looked only at percentages of workers, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Tri-Cities Index of Innovation and Technology puts more statistics to the Tri-Cities' standing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

It found that in 2009, there were 32 scientists or engineers for every 1,000 people employed in Benton and Franklin counties. That's almost 80 percent more than statewide.

If computer software engineers are excluded, Benton and Franklin counties have the greatest number of engineers per capita in the state.

The Seattle area easily beats the Tri-Cities on the number of patents granted. In 2009, Microsoft was granted 3,151 patents, which were more than half those granted in the state.

However, Benton County easily outpaced the other metropolitan counties in the Northwest.

From 2004-09, Benton County averaged more than 37 patents per 100,000 people.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory was granted 307 of the 356 patents in those years, but Infinia Corp., Isoray Medical, Cadwell, Conagra Foods Lamb Weston and Vista Engineering Technologies each received at least five patents during those years.

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