Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield has watched his town grow from the "stepchild of the Tri-Cities" to an equal partner in the region over the past decade as the local population boomed and elevated Pasco to a desirable place to live.
"Twenty years ago ... nobody wanted to move to Pasco. Everybody wanted to move out," Crutchfield said. "That's not true anymore as witnessed by the growth. Is (that attitude) gone? No. But it has changed for the better."
Population data released by the U.S. Census Bureau this week shows Pasco grew a whopping 83 percent over the past decade, as the population exploded from 32,066 in 2000 to 58,647 in 2009.
The numbers released this week are the last estimates based on the 2000 census. The official count from this year's census will be released in 2011, according to the Census Bureau.
Pasco's growth far outpaced the rest of the Tri-Cities, although Kennewick and Richland each grew at a rate nearly double the state average for the decade.
Kennewick's population rose from 54,693 in 2000 to 67,814 in 2009, or a 24 percent increase, and Richland grew from 38,708 people in 2000 to 47,527 in 2009, or a 23 percent tick upward.
Washington as a whole averaged about 13 percent growth for the decade, with the state population rising from about 5.9 million in 2000 to nearly 6.7 million in 2009, estimates showed.
West Richland also saw a significant boom over the decade, growing from 8,385 residents in 2000 to 11,520 in 2009 for a 37 percent increase.
Nearby Prosser saw its population rise from 4,838 to 5,282, or a 9 percent uptick.
Elsewhere in Eastern Washington, Yakima experienced nearly 20 percent growth as its population blossomed from 71,845 to 85,382.
Spokane and Walla Walla lagged behind the state average at 4 percent and 5 percent growth respectively. Spokane saw an increase in its number of denizens from 195,629 in 2000 to 203,276 in 2009. Walla Walla's population grew from 29,686 to 31,286 over the same period.
But Pasco's stunning growth eclipses them all. Crutchfield said it's been a challenge for the city to figure out how to serve nearly double the number of residents with more police, firefighters, streets, parks and recreation, and utilities.
Crutchfield said he thinks the city government has met the challenge well.
"Looking back we've been fairly adept at absorbing that growth in terms of service demand," he said.
Pasco has added 15 police officers, a fire station, and miles of streets and water and sewer lines to accommodate the burgeoning population.
But the next step in planning for the future is to attract more industrial and commercial development to help pay the cost of providing services to all of those new houses, he said.
Toward that end, the city has focused the last few years on developing the Heritage Industrial Center in east Pasco and creating space for industrial development along Highway 395 north of town.
And the city is working on revitalizing its downtown area, which Crutchfield sees becoming a regional hub for Hispanic businesses and culture. Hispanics are the fastest-growing minority population in the state, and make up the majority of residents in Franklin County.
"I can envision folks driving down from Othello because this is a regional service center with the kind of goods and services they can't get elsewhere," he said. "I think that is a benefit not only to the Hispanic element of the population but to other folks who like to participate and to the city. The healthier the economy is downtown, the better it is for the entire community."
The growth also has been a challenge for the Pasco School District, which has gained 5,600 students since 2000 -- enough to fill nine elementary schools.
Because of the growth, the district added schools. Chiawana High School, Pasco's second high school, was opened this year to 1,600 students because Pasco High School was bursting at the seams.
That allowed the district to turn the annex at Pasco High into an elementary school called Captain Gray Early Learning Center. The district has also added Virgie Robinson and Maya Angelou elementary schools and Ellen Ochoa Middle School since 2000.