The demographics of Eastern Washington changed significantly with the development of the Manhattan Project. Without the federal government's acquisition of the property that is now the Hanford site, this area would likely have remained an agricultural area using water obtained from the Columbia River for irrigation. The population would likely be much smaller and of a different composition; namely, farmers and retail merchants supporting agriculture. The other major industry would be the railroads, and perhaps the developing wine industry.
The Manhattan Project brought thousands of people -- many professionals with advanced degrees -- to the area and has continued to provide good-paying jobs for professionals as well tradesmen -- something it has done for the past nearly 70 years. The culturally diverse population drawn to eastern Washington created the need for retail merchants and supporting service industries and medical professionals to support the federal government and its contractor work force.
The Manhattan Project and the continued buildup that followed during the Cold War has provided good jobs that support the community and has created the need for a university campus. Challenges at the Hanford site have created opportunities for technology development and application, key ingredients for incubating businesses. A national laboratory exists here now because of the Hanford site. Now much of the Hanford site is a wildlife refuge because much of the site is undisturbed land much as it was before the Manhattan Project. Because the Manhattan Project was headed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, they kept control of the waterfront and kept it "green" for public parks and access -- quite different from waterfronts in the eastern U.S. and very impressive to newcomers to the area.
My family and I moved to the Tri-Cities in 1977 where I not only obtained professional employment for several decades, but the community also provided a safe, secure environment in which to raise our three sons, all of whom are graduates of Hanford High School. My wife also was able to obtain professional employment in nursing. My sons were able to participate in the various youth activities that the community offers. Two of my sons are graduates of state universities that would have been off the radar had we not migrated to the Pacific Northwest. Had it not been for the Manhattan Project and the opportunities it has provided over the years, my family would likely still be located somewhere in the Northeast corridor of the U.S. where we are originally from.
Never miss a local story.
We have enjoyed living in this community, have contributed to it, and are grateful for the many new friends we have met here, many of whom are fellow transients. These people were also attracted to this area by professional, well-paying jobs afforded by the Manhattan Project and its successors and the contractors who offered employment to members of the community because of the Hanford site. Had it not been for work at the Hanford site, we and many others would not be residents. The Manhattan Project truly changed the face of Eastern Washington while providing material to win World War II. For the last 20+ years, cleanup and remediation of the Hanford site and its facilities have continued to provide good-paying jobs.
Yes, we are grateful for the Manhattan Project and its legacy, even if these benefits derived from a militaristic beginning.
-- JOSEPH CAGGIANO, Richland