TRI-CITY HERALD SPECIAL SECTION
FEB. 23, 2013
Tri-City Herald file
In the past 50 years, the Tri-City Development Council has had a hand in many of the Tri-Cities’ major economic development successes. During those years, the population of the metropolitan area has grown from 65,000 to 258,000.
TRIDEC: 50 years A half-century of growing, diversifying the Tri-City economy
ifty years ago, a grim rumor was spreading through the Tri-Cities, given credence by an interview with an influential U.S. senator. It would give birth to what is now the Tri-City Development Council — the organization that has worked for a half-century to grow and diversify the Tri-City economy. Continued on Page 2
Tri-City Herald file
This undated photo shows Richland and the Columbia River, in earlier days, above. In 1964, Richland’s Federal Building was constructed, right.
TRI-CITY HERALD | SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2013
Above: A Hanford worker helps manufacture fuel elements for Hanford’s plutonium production reactors in the early ’60s. Courtesy Department of Energy
Right: President Kennedy attends the Hanford N Reactor steam plant ground-breaking event in 1963. Tri-City Herald file
Making the Tri-City economy less dependent on Hanford From Page 1 In 1963, nine reactors at Hanford were producing plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program. Economic officials estimated that almost two-thirds of the 65,000 people living in the Tri-City metropolitan area depended either directly or indirectly on Hanford’s federal payroll. But U.S. Sen. John O. Pastore, D-R.I., the chairman of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, was talking about a plutonium glut in early 1963. “There is solid need for an objective study of our nuclear weapons production,” Pastore said in an interview with Nucleonics Week. “We’ve been letting our weapons pile up and pile up and pile up, until the whole thing is out of hand.” Pastore’s comments seemed to confirm rumors filtering down to the community from the Department of Energy’s predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission. Though it wasn’t officially announced until early 1964, it became clear that the AEC planned to shut down all Hanford reactors. Hanford — started during the race to produce an atomic bomb during World War II — had flourished during the Cold War years. But by early 1963, it was falling victim to its own success, and the Tri-City economy was at risk. For several years, community leaders had been growing more worried about the economy’s dependence on Hanford. Three community Volpentest business leaders, Sam Volpentest, Glenn Lee and R.F. Philip, spent weeks in Washington, D.C., in summer 1962, playing an instrumental role in convincing Congress to pay for adding a steam turbine that would allow Hanford’s N Reactor to also produce electricity. The steam plant was to be operated by the Washington Public Power Supply System, now Energy Northwest, and represented the first inroad toward local economic diversification at Hanford. The successful lobbying effort gave Lee, then publisher of the Tri-City Herald, the first glimpse of the potential clout of an organization representing the entire Tri-City area, he would later say. Previously, the area had not had an effective voice because of infighting and rivalry among the various municipalities — three cities, two counties, four port districts, all pursuing their own interest at the expense of the others, Lee said in an interview 30 years ago.
Tri-City Herald files
A headline and story in the Feb. 5, 1963, edition of the Tri-City Herald announced the formation of the group that became known as TRIDEC.
“Nobody could ever get together and do anything,” he said then. Fresh from their successful lobbying for the steam generator, Lee, Philip and Volpentest, after talking with U.S. Sen. Henry Jackson, D-Wash., hired a nuclear consulting firm to do a $25,000 Hanford assessment. But Lee and Philip, co-owners of the Tri-City Herald, were tired of spending the newspaper’s money on economic development, Lee said. Instead, the three business leaders formed an organization that would promote economic development, paid for by those who would benefit most from its efforts — local businesses and municipalities. Creation of what would become TRIDEC, then the Tri-City Nuclear Industrial Council, or TCNIC, was announced on the front page of the Herald on Feb. 5, 1963. The group was charted by the state on Feb. 18. There was some debate about including “nuclear” in the group’s name. Local federal officials objected, but business leaders thought it would set the group apart from thousands of industrial development councils nationwide. “ ‘Nuclear’ in 1960 or 1965 was a name that had some future to it,” Volpentest would later say. Volpentest, at times a banker, tavern operator and salesman, would become the heart of what is now TRIDEC until his death in 2005 at the age of 101. When he was 73, he divested himself of his business interests to devote himself full time to the community. Volpentest was a skilled fundraiser who used his talent to fatten the campaign war chests of prominent Washington state Democrats, building close ties to former Sens. Henry
Jackson and Warren Magnuson. Volpentest’s first order of business was to recruit 85 businesses and municipalities in 1963 to pay dues, with Volpentest personally raising $35,000. AEC officials were brought to Hanford, a proposal in the $25,000 study, and key AEC officials, including Chairman Glenn Seaborg, became allies in Tri-City diversification. By the next year, TCNIC was seeing results. In return for lucrative new government contracts, contractors were required by the AEC to invest money in the community. That led to a $5 million beef packing plant, a $1 million feedlot, a $12 million laboratory complex in north Richland, Sandvik Special Metals in Finley and large contributions to what is now Washington State University Tri-Cities. The beginnings of diversification came none too soon. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson announced that he would curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons and would shut down three Hanford reactors, eliminating about 2,000 jobs. Within a decade, only N Reactor would be operating. Since the early success in 1964 of the organization that would become TRIDEC, it has had a hand in most of the Tri-Cities’ major economic development successes. The Tri-Cities has interstate access, a community college and four-year university, a national laboratory doing primarily non-Hanford research, the Northwest’s only nuclear power plant and the HAMMER training center. The metropolitan population’s area has grown from 65,000 to 258,000 in those 50 years.
This photo of the construction of the Interstate 182 bridge over the Yakima River in Richland was taken in 1981.
“The Tri-City Herald has been a partner with TRIDEC ever since its inception in 1963, and the Herald has had a hand in every one of these things,” said Gary Petersen, TRIDEC vice president. TRIDEC now has more than 350 members paying membership dues. It also has contracts with the three Tri-City area ports, four cities and two counties to perform economic development activities. In addition, it receives Associate Development Organization money from the state of Washington and can auction excess Hanford and PNNL property, such as desks and computers, to raise money for an incentive fund. Hanford continues to be an important part of the Tri-City economy as work has shifted from plutonium production to environmental cleanup, but with TRIDEC’s help, the economy is less dependent on it.
From 1971 to 1994, total area employment levels, population and the real estate market generally mirrored Hanford contractor employment, according to a 2009 economic study by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. But after 1994, area employment, total income, population and residential real estate sales and building permits increased significantly despite very few changes in Hanford job levels, the study said. “The data indicate that recently the Tri-Cities economy has become increasingly independent of Hanford,” the study said. TRIDEC estimates that 10 percent of the employment in Benton and Franklin counties now is at Hanford, although economists say its good wages mean that it still accounts for as much as 16 percent of all forms of wages and other income coming into the Tri-Cities.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2013 | TRI-CITY HERALD
TRIDEC: 50 YEARS
PHOTO GALLERY AT TRICITYHERALD.COM/TRIDEC
Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary brought together the highpowered Hanford Summit in 1993 with about 1,000 influential individuals discussing life after Hanford cleanup.
Tri-City Nuclear Industrial Council (TCNIC) formed in February 1963 after the Atomic Energy Commission announced plans to close some Hanford reactors.
In 1993, a worker tied a rock to a string and dropped it down a nuclear waste tank drainpipe to see if the pipe was plugged, and in another incident, a worker died in a steam-scalding incident. TRIDEC sought legislation to build the HAMMER training facility to instill safety into Hanford culture. Later the facility, which opened in 1997, was named the Volpentest HAMMER Training Facility in recognition of TRIDEC’s efforts.
President John F. Kennedy visited Hanford in September 1963 to dedicate the steam plant at N Reactor. The public was allowed on the Hanford site for the first time since 1943. General Electric announced in 1964 that it would give up its contract to operate Hanford, opening the door for other companies to bid on portions of the contract. TCNIC insisted bidders invest private money in new local industries. Battelle bid on the Hanford Laboratories and made an initial investment of $12 million in private offices and research facilities, as well as contributing $100,000 for construction of what would later became Washington State University Tri-Cities. Atlantic Richfield Hanford Co. took over the chemical-processing operations and invested millions to build Hanford House (Red Lion), a beef-packing plant and a feedlot, as well as established community cultural events.
Construction began in 1994 on the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) at Hanford as the result of TRIDEC’s work that started in 1990. Tri-City Herald file
Monotubes filled with fuel elements and spacers are charged into N Reactor through a protective shield in March 1970. The charging machine sits on an elevator and is raised to the proper location for pushing fuels into the graphite stack where the fuel is irradiated.
TRIDEC was named the “community voice” to work with DOE on “economic development issues.” The community transition program brought almost $23 million in grants by 2012, including a wastewater treatment facility for the food processors in Pasco, a science and tech park study, a revolving loan fund for startup businesses and a rivershore enhancement study. Congress authorized construction of the $230 million Environmental & Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory with strong endorsement by TRIDEC.
Douglas United Nuclear took over operation of the reactors. It invested millions of dollars in new labs in north Richland to help the university and to build the Sandvik Special Metals plant in Finley. Computer Sciences Co. took over Hanford’s computers and erected a private laboratory for commercial testing.
DOE named TRIDEC in 1995 as one of eight Community Reuse Organizations at weapons complex sites across the U.S. TRIDEC submitted proposals to DOE to offset the coming downturn in money and staffing at Hanford.
Production reactors — DR, H, F, D, C and B Reactor (the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor) — were closed permanently from 1964 to 1969.
J.R. Simplot built a $30 million vegetable processing plant in Pasco, and Douglas Fruit built a $5 million addition to its Pasco plant.
U.S. Sen. Henry Jackson, D-Wash., offered TCNIC a “consolation prize” in 1965 after losing out on an “atom smasher” project to Chicago. Instead, an obscure research reactor, the Fast Flux Test Facility, would be built and operated by Westinghouse Hanford Co.
In 1996, Kennewick Man was discovered during Water Follies. TRIDEC strongly encouraged DOE in 1998 to take a closer look at Hanford groundwater, in particular the billions of gallons of radioactive and chemically contaminated water seeping through the soil with a potential of reaching the Columbia River.
To open a faster route to Seattle, TCNIC became involved in a new toll bridge across the Columbia River at Vernita, where a ferry system operated for years. The Columbia Center mall opened in 1968, making the TriCities a regional shopping hub. TCNIC sponsored the creation of a visitor and convention bureau in 1969 to promote the Tri-Cities.
Under Gov. Gary Locke, the state threatened to sue DOE for failing to meet Tri-Party Agreement milestones. Tri-City Herald file
President Richard Nixon, left, shakes hands with Sam Volpentest when Nixon was in the Tri-Cities to dedicate a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory building Sept. 26, 1971. Behind Nixon is then-Gov. Dan Evans, who’s shaking hands with Glenn C. Lee, the Herald’s publisher at the time.
TRIDEC formed the Tri-Cities Asset Reinvestment Co. to serve as the selling agent for DOE and contractors for excess site equipment. Net proceeds are used as an incentive fund to attract new businesses to the Tri-Cities or help local businesses expand.
TCNIC and Richland sponsored a study of Hanford as a possible site for nuclear power plants. Two years later, work began on what’s now called the Columbia Generating Station.
President Clinton named about 200,000 acres including 51 miles along the Columbia River as the Hanford Reach National Monument.
Sen. Jackson dedicated the Uranium and Plutonium processing plant that’s now operated by AREVA to provide nuclear fuel to generate 5 percent of the nation’s electricity.
The Bush administration and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham ordered FFTF shut down. TRIDEC pushed unsuccessfully for a new medical isotope mission for FFTF.
In 1971, President Richard Nixon announced the shutdown of N Reactor. With the support of Gov. Dan Evans, TCNIC and a community team got the reactor and steam plant restarted. They operated until 1987.
Construction started in 2002 on the vitrification plant to glassify nuclear waste. The current cost estimate for the plant is $12.2 billion.
Nixon visited to officially start construction of the Fast Flux Test Facility. It was finished in 1982. TCNIC battled since the ’60s to have Interstate 82 from Yakima go through the Tri-Cities, not bypass it. Some Lower Yakima Valley residents sued in 1973, fearing it would disrupt farmland and the environment. TCNIC won, and the four-lane freeway was finished by 1986. TCNIC opposed the state and Gov. Dan Evans when the state tried to impose fees on water pumped from the Columbia and Snake rivers for irrigation. TCNIC raised money to defeat Initiative 325 to impose a moratorium on nuclear development.
Tri-City Herald file
U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials take visitors onto a section of the Hanford Reach National Monument usually closed to the public last May to see the brief spring bloom of desert wildflowers.
The Small Business Development Center was created in cooperation with Columbia Basin College, with a full-time employee at TRIDEC to provide counseling to local small businesses.
TRIDEC produced the first Columbia River Wine Expo. Twenty-eight foreign visitors participated in 2002, accounting for $900,000 in export sales. President Bush became the first sitting president to visit the Tri-Cities since 1971 when he went to Ice Harbor Dam in 2003, effectively ending talks of breaching the lower Snake River dams. TRIDEC created the Smartmap Expo, attracting vendors and exhibitors involved in manufacturing from throughout the Northwest.
Preston Wine Cellars opened north of Pasco and launched the wine industry in the region.
TRIDEC began efforts in 1987 to establish a branch campus of Washington State University by forming an advisory council. WSU Tri-Cities became an official branch in 1989.
Voters in every county in 2004 except Benton and Franklin counties approved Initiative 297 to stop nuclear waste shipments into the state until existing waste at Hanford is cleaned up. TRIDEC and DOE successfully sued to stop the initiative.
After a 10-year campaign by TCNIC, a bill passed to tax the electricity generated at the N Reactor steam plant to benefit Tri-City schools and cities. About half of the revenues would come to the Tri-City region.
TRIDEC launched the Renaissance campaign in 1987 to raise $2.3 million for privatization and economic diversification efforts.
TRIDEC and the Washington Asparagus Commission recruited Gourmet Trading Company from California to establish a fresh asparagus packing operation in Pasco.
Lamb Weston announced plans to move its corporate headquarters from Portland to the Tri-Cities, adding 140 jobs, with all but 50 new.
DOE split part of the Hanford cleanup contract into three smaller parts. TRIDEC fought successfully to include a requirement that 40 percent of each new contract be awarded to small businesses, resulting in more than $300 million in subcontracts to Tri-City firms.
1980s Construction halted on Washington Public Power Supply System’s nuclear plant units 1 and 4 in the Tri-Cities and 3 and 5 in Satsop. More than 10,000 construction workers were laid off for over four weeks. TCNIC protested without success.
Washington state’s Department of Ecology, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Richland signed the Tri-Party Agreement, which became the cornerstone of Hanford cleanup. TRIDEC provided community input and support.
TRIDEC continued its involvement in opening B Reactor to more public tours and supported the successful application to name B Reactor a National Historical Monument. TRIDEC testified before Congress in 2012 in support of the Manhattan Project National Park.
TCNIC supported a Department of Energy proposal in 1984 to consolidate eight major Hanford contracts back into four contracts.
Gene Astley, TRIDEC’s chairman, instigated the loaned executive program, which allowed Hanford contractors to “loan” executives to TRIDEC to work on specific projects.
TRIDEC started in 2009 a new regional initiative, now known as the Mid-Columbia Energy Initiative, to make the Tri-City area the energy hub of the Northwest.
TCNIC changed its name to Tri-City Industrial Development Council (TRIDEC) and became the official economic development organization for the counties, cities and ports. It would later refine its name further to the Tri-City Development Council.
Tank 101-SY, considered Hanford’s most dangerous radioactive waste tank, continued venting potentially explosive hydrogen gases. With TRIDEC support, more congressional funding was provided. DOE and the state clashed over the cleanup schedule, and the Tri-Party Agreement was amended.
TRIDEC, city and state officials successfully convinced AREVA to consolidate the company’s fuel bundle assembly operations in Richland rather than Virginia.
The Hanford Site was one of three in the nation to be evaluated as a possible high-level waste repository inside Gable Mountain in the center of the site. TRIDEC supported the study.
Construction began in 1992 on the $4.3 million Tri-Cities Cancer Center. TRIDEC supported the joint project of the three major hospitals.
Work began on the Interstate 182 twin bridges across the Yakima River into Richland and across the Columbia River from Richland to Pasco.
TRIDEC, along with Richland, Port of Benton and Benton County, requested 1,341 acres of uncontaminated Hanford land near Richland city limits for development. TRIDEC also requested 300 acres for a clean energy park in conjunction with Energy Northwest.
TRI-CITY HERALD | SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2013
IN THEIR WORDS “From Hanford to PNNL, to bringing in new businesses and nurturing the ones that are already here, TRIDEC has been a critical ally for the Tri-Cities community. Whenever I need information on what’s happening on the ground, TRIDEC is my first call.” — Sen. Patty Murray “TRIDEC has been a tireless ambassador for the Tri-Cities, advocating for adequate budgets for our long-standing federal mission, leading business initiatives that grow the stature and impact of our region and attracting new businesses that provide jobs and revenue to our local economy.” — Marty Conger, PNNL chief finance officer and associate laboratory director for business systems “TRIDEC’s support helped the Port of Kennewick secure permits to construct the Clover Island lighthouse and riverwalk. Those catalyst projects are now transforming our downtown, encouraging new business and creating a destination waterfront and an improved quality of life.” — Tim Arntzen, Port of Kennewick executive director “Our community owes much of the prosperity we are experiencing today to the decades of persistent economic development work on the part of TRIDEC.” — Lorraine Cooper, Kennewick School District communications and public relations director “The many projects that have been promoted by TRIDEC and ultimately constructed here truly speak to its success. This is true of not only the extensive Hanford programs but the surrounding roads, bridges and many public and private facilities which enhance the TriCities communities.” — Bill Lampson, Lampson International president “For a half-century, TRIDEC has been the voice for business development in the Tri-Cities. Their work has been invaluable in creating growth and diversification in our community. The Tri-Cities would not be the same without their hard work and vision.” — Wayne Langford, Tri-City Association of Realtors president “No single entity can afford the time, talent and financial resources required to market our area across the nation in the competition for business recruitment and expansion, but by pooling resources through TRIDEC, we are able to be very competitive.” — Jean Ryckman, Port of Pasco Commission president and former Pasco School Board member “Successes that we see now come back to something that TRIDEC did 20 years ago.” — Gary Ballew, city of Richland community development services manager “Just two years ago, the city of Kennewick, in partnership with TRIDEC, saw a vision for the future growth of Kennewick to the south of I-82. They worked with us, our legislators and the county to push forward with a bill that would allow us to expand by more than 1,600 acres to the south to be used for industrial development.” — Steve Young, Kennewick mayor “We have a wonderful infrastructure compared to most communities our size. I think TRIDEC’s been very influential in that.” — Rand Wortman, Kadlec Health System CEO
Successes are widespread KRISTI PIHL HERALD STAFF WRITER
vidence of the Tri-City Development Council’s fingers can be found in a lot of Tri-City pies. Some efforts are well acknowledged, such as TRIDEC’s partnership with Richland, the Port of Benton and Benton County to ask for 1,341 acres of Hanford land near Richland city limits to be freed up for job creation. Others are less tangible, such as the business opportunities TRIDEC has helped chase down for the Tri-Cities. One thing is for sure — having a single, unified front helps in recruiting companies, officials say. Those efforts do not result in a new business each time. Recruiting companies is a “kiss a lot of toads business,” said Port of Pasco Executive Director Jim Toomey. Princes can be few and far between. But among their successes can be counted Reser’s Fine Foods at the Pasco Processing Center, the Ferguson Enterprises distribution center in Richland, the Amazon.com call center in Kennewick and Cascade Natural Gas’ headquarters in Kennewick. “TRIDEC has clearly been the single most effective economic development and progrowth organization for the Tri-Cities and surrounding areas,” said Bill Lampson, president of the Lampson International crane company. Tri-City community leaders said TRIDEC has helped in the effort to lessen the Tri-Cities’
economic dependency on Hanford. “It was hard to wean everything from the Hanford focus,” said Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield. TRIDEC has recognized the need to diversify beyond Hanford and still pay a strong attention to Hanford, Crutchfield said. Jean Ryckman, Port of Pasco Commission president, said, “TRIDEC provides a strong voice in Washington, D.C., for continued funding of Hanford cleanup with an eye toward diversification of business and industry that will sustain us when cleanup is complete.” The Tri-Cities is seeing some of the efforts to develop a post-Hanford economy come to fruition, said Kadlec Health System CEO Rand Wortman. TRIDEC’s efforts to bring in new businesses has helped health care providers including Kadlec to grow, he said. The organization also has played a role in the region’s tourism industry, said Kris Watkins, Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau president and CEO. TRIDEC helped start the visitor bureau in 1969 by committing $5,000 out of its $49,000 budget for three years, Watkins said. The agency’s influence on tourism continues today with TRIDEC’s support for the B Reactor becoming part of the national park system. And TRIDEC’s efforts to attract and retain businesses helps support the housing market, said Jeff Losey, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities.
“We need jobs to spur housing,” he said. TRIDEC also has helped with promoting Ben Franklin Transit’s all-electric bus demonstration, said Tim Fredrickson, the transit agency’s general manager. The bus is being transformed from standard diesel into a zeroemission, electric-powered vehicle using a grant. The Mid-Columbia Energy Initiative, which TRIDEC is a part of, has great potential, he said. Kennewick Mayor Steve Young describes the Mid-Columbia Energy Initiative as a chance to transition the Hanford work force into leaders in research and development of renewable energy. “The initiative will create a whole new industry with an advanced focus on the development of renewable energy such as wind, hydroelectric and nuclear power,” he said. U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, said TRIDEC always has acted as an ambassador for the Tri-Cities. “From Hanford cleanup to land use decisions to preservation of B Reactor and a host of other issues, TRIDEC’s advocacy work and leadership on the things that matter to our hometown have always been critical,” he told the Herald. “As we prepare for life after Hanford cleanup, TRIDEC’s role will become even more important in diversifying our economy and ensuring a vibrant future for our children and grandchildren.” ◗ Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricity herald.com
Seeing a bright future for Tri-Cities ANNETTE CARY
HERALD STAFF WRITER
he greatest economic opportunity for the Tri-Cities may be as an energy hub for the Northwest, say Tri-City Development Council officials. That’s not the only economic opportunity TRIDEC is pursuing, but it may hold the most promise as the organization looks ahead on its 50th birthday. The Tri-Cities already is a hub for the state’s energy production with 40 percent of the state’s electricity produced within 100 miles, said Gary Petersen, TRIDEC vice president of Hanford programs. That includes 100 percent of the state’s wind power generation. In addition, 5 percent of the nation’s electricity is produced with nuclear fuel manufactured by Areva in the Tri-Cities. TRIDEC has formed the MidColumbia Energy Initiative, with almost 100 members, to expand the energy sector of the Tri-City economy. The intent is not only to generate more electricity and produce fuels from agricultural waste, but also to attract manufacturers of energy equipment and new technologies. Federal energy park legislation approved in 2011 said “community reuse” organizations could request land as Department of Energy environmental cleanup is completed. For TRIDEC — DOE’s community reuse organization for unneeded Hanford resources — that opened the opportunity to ask for 1,641 acres of uncontaminated land in southern Hanford for economic development. The request is under consideration. The land would include 300 acres to be used for a clean energy park and the rest to be divided into a 900-acre site for one or two large enterprises and then three smaller sites. The parcel is one of just three “mega-sites” — a site larger than 500 acres — available to develop for industrial use in the Pacific Northwest, said Carl Adrian,
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Gov. Chris Gregoire, Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Doc Hastings toured B Reactor, the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor, in 2011. TRIDEC and other B Reactor supporters want Congress to create a national historical park, which includes the reactor. Tri-City Herald file
TRIDEC president. TRIDEC is particularly interested in attracting manufacturers of high-tech products or those that would require some technical skills in the work force, such as a plant manufacturing technology being developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland or manufacturing small modular nuclear reactors. TRIDEC also sees opportunity to become a center for electric vehicles, particularly to convert buses or other public transit vehicles from diesel to electric power. Ben Franklin Transit will receive an electric bus refurbished to travel 150 miles per charge next month, as part of an effort by the transit authority, PNNL and TRIDEC. Initially, an analysis will be done to compare the economics of diesel vs. electric power for the bus. The Department of Energy’s national lab operated by Battelle in Richland also should be a rich source of economic diversification. “TRIDEC has long believed that PNNL will play a key role in the Tri-Cities future,” Adrian said. What is now PNNL was started to support the Hanford nuclear reservation, but currently just 3 percent to 4 percent of its budget is spent on Hanfordrelated work. TRIDEC continues to support PNNL in its bids for new missions, but also sees opportunity in
new businesses based on the technology developed at the lab. Businesses that trace their roots to PNNL or Battelle technology or personnel now employ more than 1,100 people in the MidColumbia, according to PNNL. But too often technology born at the Richland lab is commercialized on the other side of the state or nation, taking the economic benefits from the Tri-Cities. To curb that, TRIDEC is working more closely with the lab to support key new businesses and provide financial incentives to base them in the Tri-Cities, Petersen said. In recruiting new businesses to the Tri-Cities, TRIDEC has three target areas, playing on the strengths of the Tri-Cities: highly educated workers, access to scientific and technical expertise and natural resources. It is targeting research and development companies, including those that specialize in data security, energy, environment and biotechnology. TRIDEC also is targeting technology manufacturing and the value-added agriculture products and processes, including food processing, wine and bioproducts. The Tri-Cities also has enormous opportunity to grow the tourism industry here, if TRIDEC and other B Reactor supporters are successful in efforts to persuade Congress to create a new
multistate Manhattan Project National Historical Park that includes the historic Hanford reactor. Tours of the world’s first production scale reactor already are popular. But if it is included in a national park, visitors are expected to increase to 100,000 its first year and continue to grow, Petersen said. Not only does that bring visitors to the Tri-Cities to spend money on shopping, gas, restaurants and hotels, but it also will help attract conferences and conventions of major international scientific organizations, he said. TRIDEC was formed 50 years ago to diversify the Tri-City economy and make it less dependent on Hanford jobs. While the Tri-Cities has grown less dependent on Hanford, TRIDEC continues to work for adequate annual budgets for Hanford. The family wage jobs still are a key part of the Tri-City economy. But TRIDEC also sees the need to continue environmental cleanup of the site so the land will eventually have a new use. That includes some industrial development, but also more land open to public access and available for outdoor tourism. Kayaking, long bike trails and boat launches could be in Hanford’s future. ◗ Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@ tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews
A Tri-City Herald special section on a half-century of growing, diversifying the Tri-City economy.