The Tri-Cities may be holding its own in national population rankings, but it’s getting a run for its money from Washington’s “other Tri-Cities.”
Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater are hot on our heels after a healthy population bump, according to new estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The rankings are nice for civic boasting but they also provide fuel for business.
Rankings matters, said Carl Adrian, president and CEO of the Tri-City Development Council (TRIDEC), the Mid-Columbia’s leading economic development effort. From retailers to employers, businesses base siting decisions on community size.
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“I think size, rank and growth definitely matter to retailers, especially national chains,” he said. “Once a community reaches a certain size, it hits their radar. These numbers are also important for employers who want to ensure a community can meet their workforce needs.”
Last year, Kennewick-Richland-Pasco grew by 6,500 people.
That’s a 2.3 percent gain, allowing it to retain its No. 165 spot in a national ranking of U.S. metros.
The Olympia area gained nearly 6,700, pushing it up three spots to No. 171.
The state’s capital gain is no surprise. U-Haul named it the 11th most popular destination for movers in its 2017 migration report.
New York City is the nation’s top metro. Carson City, Nev., is the smallest, at No. 382.
The Northwest’s other big movers include No. 141 Eugene, up three spots, No. 200 Bellingham, up four spots and No. 261 Coeur d’Alene, up a region-leading six spots.
Coeur d’Alene, the northern Idaho resort community, is one of the nation’s fastest-growing metro areas as a percentage of growth. Its move six places up the rankings was fueled by a gain of 4,500 in just a year.
“That’s kind of nice,” said Steve Wilson, president and CEO of the Coeur d’Alene chamber of commerce.
He credits a great standard of living and rave reviews like a recent Wall Street Journal article that called it a hot place to retire for propelling a wave of retirees to settle among its scenic lakes and mountains.
“That is our primary growth in the last several years,” Wilson said.
The Northwest’s Top Five metros were mostly unchanged in the national rankings owing to their already-large population bases: Seattle-Tacoma-Everett (15), Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro (25), Boise (80), Spokane (98) and Salem (126).
The Tri-Cities may be unchanged in the rankings, but it is not stagnant.
For the 2017 population estimates, data was available by metro area and county, but not by individual cities. The census bureau includes all of Benton and Franklin counties, including rural areas, in the Tri-City metro designation.
The Tri-Cities remain the region’s leading market for long-term growth.
Between 2010 and 2017, Franklin County was Washington’s fastest-growing county with a population gain of nearly 18 percent while Benton County was third with a population gain of 13 percent.
With 6,500 newcomers in 2017, the Mid-Columbia population is 10,000 people shy of the 300,000 mark, the number local officials tend to cite to describe the area.
Individually, Benton County gained nearly 4,700 people and Franklin County gained 1,800, for growth rates of 2.4 percent and 2 percent.
Statewide, Washington grew to 7.4 million, an increase of 125,000 people or 1.7 percent.
According to the census bureau, the Tri-City population growth is driven by domestic migration, a robust birth rate and international migration, in that order.
Of the roughly 6,500 newcomers, 53 percent migrated from somewhere within the U.S. and 8 percent were international arrivals. Places of origin were not available.
There were 4,384 births and 1,860 deaths for a “natural” increase of 2,524, or 39 percent of the total.
The local growth trends echo those for the state, except that the Tri-Cities enjoy a far higher birth rate.
Of the nearly 125,000 new Washingtonians, 52 percent moved from within the U.S. and 21 percent were international arrivals. The state registered 90,459 births and 56,457 deaths, for a “natural” increase of 34,002 people or 27 percent of the total.
Where to find the data:
Research Census data at factfinder.census.gov. For the 2017 population estimates, choose “Guided Search,” then “I’m looking for information from a specific dataset” then “population estimates” then “2017 population estimates.” Follow the prompts to choose the geographic type you seek — national, state, county and Metropolitan Statistical Area.