The economy in the Tri-Cities is perking up despite layoffs at Hanford and the federal government shutting off the stimulus money pipeline.
That's the consensus of the mayors of Richland, Pasco, Kennewick and West Richland in their State of the Cities reports to 850 people Wednesday at a Tri-Cities Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Pasco.
"Hanford is important but no longer the whole focus of the community," said Kennewick Mayor Steve Young. "We're all moving into a new place. We have the tools we need to grow."
Young said the past year has brought the Tri-Cities more hotels, apartment buildings, homes and businesses.
"Six hotels are planned for Richland alone," said Richland Mayor John Fox. And the previous year also brought a burst of apartment construction.
Industry is also growing.
"Already ... private investors have put $35 million into their Innovation Center Buildings and facilities in the Research District (in north Richland) and they plan to add up to $25 million more this year," Fox said.
"Later this year the city will sell bonds and start adding new streets, utilities and broadband over in the (Horn Rapids) industrial zone where ConAgra plans a $35 million ... frozen food warehouse," he said.
Improvements to transportation are driving some of the economic development.
"We're completing the Highway 240-395 loop -- Steptoe and Hildebrand -- to connect the cities, which will further drive economic development in the Tri-Cities," said Young.
The proposed Red Mountain interchange on Interstate 82 at West Richland was designated a state Department of Transportation project last year and named one of the governor's top 16 projects for economic development and tourism expansion, said West Richland Mayor Donna Noski.
In Pasco, the city's been adding curbs and gutters to streets in east Pasco and is looking to replace the Lewis Street underpass with an overpass.
"So if anyone has an extra $15 or $20 million come see me," Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins joked.
Tourism is another driving force as Pasco and West Richland focus more on their riverfronts.
Watkins said Pasco is improving the Pasco Boat Basin and the shoreline connecting it to Sacajawea State Park.
Noski said city surveys and town hall meetings show West Richland residents chose the Yakima River entrance at Van Giesen Street as their number one choice for redevelopment.
"During 2011, Washington State Department of Transportation overlayed a portion of Van Giesen. Prior to which the city completed water and sewer upgrades including installing fire hydrants and stubbing water and sewer services to vacant lots to promote economic development," Noski said.
Young said, "It's an exciting time. Keep the faith, don't listen to all the negative. Last year we saw our future, and we're in it now."
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; email@example.com