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What’s the next big thing for the Tri-Cities? 4,500 have spoken

The Tri-Cities should focus on agriculture, diversity, prosperity, energy, livability and education, according to MyTri2030, a community visioning effort led by the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The Tri-Cities should focus on agriculture, diversity, prosperity, energy, livability and education, according to MyTri2030, a community visioning effort led by the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce. Tri-City Herald

Tri-Citians have a vision.

They want a community built on its agricultural roots, a world class center for clean energy development and a place where young adults want to build their lives and businesses.

That’s the takeaway from the 4,500 people who chimed in on an in-depth survey last spring.

The Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce asked Mid-Columbia residents of all ages to share their view of the region as part of a “community visioning” process it calls MyTri2030.

It released the results Wednesday at a Pasco luncheon attended by more than 400, despite freezing temperatures and challenging road conditions. The next steps include identifying people to help lead the effort and releasing a plan to get there in October.

The results are short on specifics, but paint a broad picture of where Tri-Cities see opportunities to build the community they want.

Agriculture, diversity, entrepreneurship, energy, livability and education were their top priorities.

MyTri2030 is more than a cheerleading session serving up big ideas and little action.

History of success

Mike Schwenk, 2008 Tri-Citian of the Year and community advocate, encouraged his neighbors to take the effort seriously.

Appearing by video from Hawaii, with the ocean behind him, Schwenk deadpanned, “Sure wish I was with you,” a line that scored a solid laugh.

Schwenk noted that the region has a history of laying out visions for itself, then pursuing them. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, waterfront trails, a Washington State University branch campus and Delta (STEM) High School are among its accomplishments.

WSU Tri-Cities
Washington State University Tri-Cities campus in Richland. WSU

“There are many, many things that have occurred in our community because we decided to make them occur,” he said.

The chamber is thrilled with the number of survey responses. It expected 1,000 and officials privately hoped to reach the 4,000 mark.

Leaders resisted the temptation to identify specific projects, said Lori Mattson, the chamber’s executive director.

They stopped and reminded themselves that ideas need to come from the grassroots, not from the top down.

They had good reason — local voters don’t like being told what the community wants.

Kennewick voters have rejected plans to expand the Three Rivers Convention Center and build a Broadway-style theater three times, most recently in 2017.

And Tri-City voters shot down a sales tax increase to put an aquatics center in Pasco in 2013.

Projects come next

Instead, MyTri2030 will convene workgroups to hash out ways to advance the six priority “opportunities.”

It will survey the community for people and organizations to take the lead on each area. The survey is live now at mytri2030.com/survey

Pasco Levee
Tri-Citians want a community built on its agricultural roots, a world class center for clean energy development and a place where young adults want to build their lives and businesses. File Tri-City Herald

Each will be the focus of a workshop between June and September to drill down on specific goals and action items. or specific projects. The formal community action plan should be ready by October.

Richland-based New Edge is facilitating the process, drawing on its experience working in other communities.

Follow the effort online at mytri2030.com.

At a Glance:

  • Advancing Agriculture — Honor the important role farming plays in the Mid-Columbia economy and foster connections between agriculture, science and technology. “Some might say we’re already there. If we are, let’s take it to the next level,” said Carl Adrian, president of the Tri-City Industrial Council or TRIDEC.
  • Amplifying Inclusion — Diversity is a fact in the Tri-Cities. Choosing to embrace and connect with others is a choice, said Paula Linnen, a PNNL executive and chair of the regional affairs committee.
  • Fueling Prosperity — Business formation and entrepreneurship are keys to the regional economy. Creating a true start-up community and entrepreneurial ecosystem will attract talent to the region, said Brett Spooner, of the leadership committee.
  • Optimizing Energy — The Tri-Cities has what it takes to lead the world in clean energy development thanks to its solar, wind and hydro assets, its nuclear know-how and its research institutions, said Steve Simmons, a restaurateur and member of the leadership group.
  • Thriving Life — A thriving cultural scene with plenty of options to eat, recreate and take in the arts is a key to attracting and retaining talent in the Tri-Cities, said Michael Novakovich, president of Visit Tri-Cities and a member of the leadership group.
  • Transforming Education — Connecting students and employers is a key to keeping both from looking outside the region, said Paul Carlisle of the leadership group.

Wendy Culverwell writes about local government and politics, focusing on how those decisions affect your life. She also covers key business and economic development changes that shape our community. Her restaurant column and health inspection reports are reader favorites. She’s been a news reporter in Washington and Oregon for 25 years.


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