Job creation, a booming population and regional and national recognition that the Tri-Cities are a great place to raise a family or start a career are giving local mayors plenty of reasons to gush.
A record 396 members of the business community attended the 13th annual State of the Tri-Cities address, part of the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce’s monthly meeting. They heard about improvements to public safety and plans for commercial development.
But that success is coming with challenges, the mayors noted, and other issues also will need to be addressed if the Tri-Cities want to continue to prosper.
“With jobs, we get people. With people, we have to keep up our services,” said Kennewick Mayor Steve Young.
Young, along with the mayors of Pasco, Richland and West Richland, pointed to highlights they said demonstrated the region’s steady evolution and earned the cities awards and rankings for their quality of life. Construction of a new fire station in Kennewick, growth in Richland’s Queensgate shopping district, the encouragement of tourism through projects such as West Richland’s Yakima River Gateway and the popular Food Truck Friday event in downtown Pasco were all cited as crucial to the entire region.
“I daresay there’s a resurgence of a community in downtown because of this,” said Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins.
But even as the city of Pasco city has sought to represent its communities, downtown and otherwise, city officials are closely watching the city of Yakima as it fights a lawsuit that orders it to redistrict so its large Hispanic population is properly represented, Watkins said.
In Kennewick, where residents approved a sales tax to supplement public safety budgets, Young said there’s still work to do to implement it. And also to make sure the revenue it generates ends up where it is most needed and that state tax dollars that have helped cities keep up on infrastructure continue to come in.
New development brings traffic and the city of Richland is looking at ways to reduce the congestion stemming from growth in Queensgate, including trying to find money for a bridge across the Yakima River at Duportail Street.
The progress that’s been made is leading to a new chapter for the Tri-Cities, said chamber President & CEO Lori Mattson.
“We have to continue to move forward to stay on top of all those rankings,” she said.