Luring businesses into Tri-Cities paying off

The Tri-Cities may be seeing its efforts to lure in businesses paying off.

That is what Jeff Kossow, Kennewick's director of planning and economic development, sees when he looks at his city's 29 percent increase in construction-related taxable retail sales during the first three months of this year.

Overall, Kennewick has seen an increase of nearly 5 percent, to $367.3 million, in total taxable retail sales for first quarter 2012 compared to the same time last year, according to recently released data from the Washington State Department of Revenue.

"I really think it's the awareness that's going on about the Tri-Cities," Kossow said.

The city's total taxable sales in construction were up to nearly $30 million for the first quarter of this year, compared to $23.3 million during the same time in 2011.

"People are looking for locations to invest," he said.

And it's not just new businesses.

Kossow said current businesses also are expanding, either adding on to their current locations or investing in a new building.

While Kennewick experienced growth, Richland saw a dip of about 3 percent to $202.3 million in total taxable retail sales for the first quarter of this year, and Pasco was down nearly 1 percent to about $191.9 million. Both cities saw declines in construction-related sales.

In the Tri-Cities, Pasco saw the most growth in retail trade, up by 14 percent growth from the same time last year to about $97 million.

A good portion of the growth can be attributed to a 43 percent increase in taxable sales by new and used auto dealers. Their sales were up to about $32.7 million during first quarter 2012.

Kennewick's retail trade grew by about 2 percent, to $221.3 million, during the first three months of the year. The city saw a nearly 7 percent growth in vehicle sales.

And Richland saw a 0.4 percent drop in taxable sales from retail trade to about $92.8 million. Vehicle sales were down by nearly 1 percent.

Richland also saw a 1 percent decline in accommodations and food services. Kennewick experienced a 5 percent increase while Pasco was up by 7 percent.

Kris Watkins, president and CEO of the Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau, said a decline in business travel with the end of the federal stimulus dollars may be causing Richland to see less hospitality businesses.

But the Tri-Cities has brought in sports groups and conventions that are reflected in Kennewick and Pasco's growth, she said. And the Tri-Cities is also seeing leisure travel increase.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com