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MSNBC: Stimulus a boon to Tri-Cities

The Tri-Cities, once again, has made national news.

An msnbc.com story Thursday describes how Benton County fared compared with an Indiana county in receiving federal stimulus money.

In Benton County, stimulus cash so far has created or retained more than 2,500 positions, the story says, citing information from the three prime contractors managing the Hanford cleanup project.

The story also points out that so far only about 12 percent of the $2 billion in stimulus money allocated to Hanford work has been spent. As the rest of the money is spent, stimulus jobs at Hanford are expected to increase, according to the Department of Energy.

Stimulus money is helping keep the area unemployment rate low, spurring retail sales and in general keeping the Tri-City economy lubricated, the MSNBC story says.

Carl Adrian, president of the Tri-City Development Council, is quoted in the story saying, "I really do believe this is one of those communities where it has worked exactly like it was supposed to."

"I think it's a positive story," Adrian told the Herald on Thursday.

But the story says areas like Elkhart County in Indiana weren't so lucky and have seen few jobs created or retained. It reports that Elkhart County's share of the stimulus funding is only $49 million.

The report focuses on recession-hit Elkhart County, which President Obama visited several times during his election campaign, and contrasts it with the Tri-Cities because they are similar communities in many ways, Adrian said.

But the biggest difference is that Hanford had large "shovel-ready" projects when stimulus funding was being allocated, while Elkhart County was heavily dependent on the hard-hit RV manufacturing industry.

Adrian said the story shows theTri-Cities is doing well in uncertain economic times. It also highlights the role of agriculture and the health care industry in creating jobs, he said.

Adrian added, "Any time the Tri-Cities can get national attention, it's a plus."

Dean Schau, regional labor economist, said the story made him think about how the recession is affecting communities across the nation differently.

"I'm grateful I'm in a community that's growing," he said.

Though many counties in Washington such as Clark, Grays Harbor, Skagit and Snohomish are hurting, Washington is better off than California, which has a budget shortfall of $21 billion compared with Washington's $2.6 billion deficit, Schau said.

And Hanford is an important component of Washington's economy, he said, thanks to the state's congressional delegation that has secured federal money for the Hanford cleanup.

See the full story at www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34027093/ns/us_news-the_elkhart_project.

-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; pjoshi@tricityherald.com; Business Beat blog at www.tricityherald.com

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