Region teeming with architects, engineers

The Tri-Cities has the fourth-highest concentration of architects and engineers in the nation.

Wage and employment information recently released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 6.2 percent of jobs in the Tri-Cities are for architects and engineers, compared to a 1.8 percent nationwide average.

Local officials have known for years that the Tri-Cities ranks high in scientists and engineers, said Carl Adrian, president and CEO of TRIDEC. Much of that can be attributed to Richland's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Hanford-related work.

Although Hanford is a major employer in that field, regional labor economist Ajsa Suljic said there are other companies employing engineers and architects.

Having this concentration of engineers and architects is promising for the Tri-Cities' economic future, Adrian said. The supply of trained workers could help attract technology companies to the area and is something TRIDEC uses to market the area.

When GCL Solar opened a research and development office in Richland two years ago, Adrian said one of the reasons the Chinese company cited for coming to the area was the rich pool of engineers.

And such a concentration could help employers recruit qualified workers because there are other companies in the same area they could work for if the original job doesn't work out, he said.

Adrian said he doesn't expect to see a change in that concentration with the upcoming Hanford layoffs.

One public and five private industries make up more than 60 percent of the jobs in the Tri-Cities, Suljic said. Those industries are government, retail trade, health care, agriculture, administrative support and professional and technical services.

The diversity in industries means that the area doesn't depend on a single industry for employment, she said.

The average wage in the Tri-Cities was $22.91 per hour in May 2010, which is about 7 percent higher than the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The concentration of science, technology, engineering and math disciplines in the Tri-Cities, along with Department of Energy employment, skews the average for wages, Adrian said.

The top two highest paid occupations in the area were management, at $55.32 per hour, and architecture and engineering, at $41.42 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The lowest paid occupations were food preparation and serving, at $11.16 per hour, according to the bureau. Nearly 8 percent of jobs fit into that category in May 2010.