The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news.
It was late in the afternoon on Thursday August 6th. I was wrapping up loose ends at my office in Moses Lake when the phone rang. I did not know it at the time, but answering that phone call would set into motion a fast-paced chain of events that in less than three months would culminate in my writing this blog post today from my new office in Yakima.
I won’t go into all the details of the past few months but do want to focus on a question that I have been asked often: “Why are you moving to Yakima County?”
As I went through the interview process and was evaluated, measured, and assessed by the board of New Vision, my wife and I were also evaluating, measuring, and assessing the greater Yakima area. I would like to share what most impressed us about Yakima County and why we are so thrilled to be here and to call this community home.
Yakima County is serious about education
With sixteen school districts, a Technical Skills Center, Yakima Valley Community College, Heritage University, Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, Perry Tech, and a strong collaboration with both CWU and WSU for four year degrees available locally; we quickly envisioned our three boys, Adam, Marshall, and Anders growing up here and going through the K-12 system and pursuing their post-secondary education in whatever field they chose. Whether it’s vocational and skills based training or a four year degree, they will be able to do it right here.
Yakima is in control of its destiny
On the first trip our family made to Yakima to really look at the community I noticed a small banner on the side of the road just after we took the downtown exit. It was a simple sign with only three words; “All American City.” I immediately knew that this is a community that takes charge of its future. It isn’t afraid to own up to its faults and shortcomings and then proactively come together and do something about it.
No city is perfect, and that’s okay. However, in a world where it is increasingly easier to point the finger at the state, or the federal government for why things aren’t the way everyone would like them to be locally, it is encouraging to see accountability, responsibility, and community leadership. Not everyone knows what that little “All American City” banner signifies. For my family though, it signified that this is a community we want to be a part of.
Yakima is a growing and dynamic community
The tenth largest city in Washington State and the third largest city in Eastern Washington is Yakima. Of the more than 285 cities and towns across the state, sixty-five percent of them grew less than 10% in total population over the past ten years. Conversely, ten of the fourteen cities in Yakima County saw growth of ten percent or greater over the same time period. This is a place that is attracting people and at the same time it is offering those people a lot of activities, events and programs to keep everyone connected and involved. There is the fair, the Y, events at the Convention Center, the symphony, theatre, sporting events, cultural festivals, concerts, and more. These activities are spread throughout the entire County. What a great place to live and learn from all the area has to offer.
Yakima County equals outdoor recreation
Its location against the Cascade Mountains gives quick access to multiple national forests and wilderness areas including the Goat Rocks Wilderness, Mount Adams Wilderness, and William O. Douglas Wilderness. These areas along with the Snoqualimie, Gifford Pinchot, and Wenatchee National Forests provide easy access for hiking, backpacking, geo-caching, skiing, camping, and whole host of other outdoor activities. The Tieton, American, Bumping, Naches, and Yakima Rivers makes it a great place for fly-fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. The many lakes and reservoirs offer opportunities for boating, water skiing, and more.
In short, Yakima County has all of the qualities that my family and I appreciate in a community. We are so excited to be here and to call the Valley our home. We look forward to making new friends and becoming involved in all the area has to offer.