Kiplinger.com says Richland is nation's second-best city to raise children

Richland is almost the best place in the U.S. to raise children, according to the current online issue of Kiplinger.com magazine.

Richland's rating -- based the number of public parks and playgrounds, how much money is spent on educating children, income levels and affordability -- put it at No. 2, right behind Omaha, Neb.

Richland earned its high place on the top 10 list by having an average family income of $95,620 and almost 29 percent of households having children, said the report.

The report said an average of $8,528 per student is spent each year on education, and there are 29 playgrounds, said Kiplinger reporter Caitlin Dewey in the report.

"This is such a plus for us. We're finally being recognized for things we've always known about the Tri-Cities," said Kris Watkins, CEO and president of the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau.

Watkins, who has been doing tourism and destination marketing for the Tri-Cities for17 years, said Kiplinger's ranking of Richland being one of the best family friendly communities in the U.S. validates the region's characteristics.

Recent years have seen the Tri-Cities make several top 10 lists for safety, affordability and livability.

"This is my favorite designation so far. Family based criteria is important," she said.

The Kiplinger story noted that while Southeast Washington may "sound like a no-man's land to outsiders, it is anything but."

Richland's appeal is based in a mix of positives, including high-wage jobs at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where "families can earn a very comfortable living," and consistently high marks on state standardized tests at Lewis and Clark and White Bluffs' elementary schools, the report noted.

"I'm delighted and proud of the city, especially since I have served on the school board," said Mayor John Fox.

"I've said for many years Richland is a great place to raise a family. But I was surprised they didn't say it was on the Columbia River where we have wonderful recreation facilities," he said.

Fox noted the other cities on the list were in or near much larger metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles and New York.

Richland's top ranking as a family friendly community in the U.S. also was helped by the fact that the family fishing pond, splash park and Playground of Dreams are not far away in Kennewick.

Kennewick Mayor Steve Young said Richland's recognition is good for the entireTri-Cities.

"Our last city survey showed us the people want the appearance of the city to improve. It's a great boost, another in a pattern of boosts we've had," Fox said.

"(This achievement) is really for the region as a whole. It is the result of all the investments all the cities have done. We are working really well together to make this a great place to live," Watkins said.

Kiplinger.com's top 10 best places in the U.S. for raising children, with the 2010 average family income, population and spending per student, are:

-- Omaha -- 408,958; income $78,466; $6,077 per student.

-- Richland -- 48,058; income $95,620; $8,528 per student.

-- Suwanee, Ga. -- 15,355; income $104,813; $6,008 per student.

-- Thousand Oaks, Calif. -- 126,683; income $138,313; $5,947 per student.

-- E. Grand Rapids, Mich. -- 10,694; income $142,329; $5,748 per student.

-- Appleton, Wis. -- 72,623; income $79,909; $6,047 per student.

-- Sunnyvale, Calif. -- 140,081; income $123,647; $7,345 per student.

-- Middletown, N.Y. -- 28,086; income $70,842; $11,194 per student.

-- Corona, Calif. -- 152,374; income $97,618; $5,917 per student.

-- Stamford, Conn. -- 122,643; income $131,822; $9,631 per student.

-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com