Spokane Journal of Business

EWU institute launches Tri-Cities data tracker

Information could benefit businesses in Spokane

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Eastern Washington University’s Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis says it has developed a Web-based data bank for businesses, community leaders, and residents of Benton and Franklin counties, the university says.

But Patrick Jones, the institute’s executive director, believes the website, at www.bentonfranklintrends.ewu.edu, also will benefit Spokane-area businesses.

“As I’ve been to the Tri-Cities a lot recently for this project—and a couple of others—I was struck by the high number of Spokane-area businesses who have offices there,” Jones says. “I think the site will be valuable for those businesses in helping them to further understand that market.”

Pasco serves as Franklin’s county seat, while Kennewick and Richland are in neighboring Benton County. The database enables users to track data trends in the areas of agriculture, economic vitality, education, health, safety, sustainability, transportation, and tourism.

With a total of 275,000 residents in both counties, Jones says Benton and Franklin are the fastest-growing counties in Eastern Washington. Of the 174 different units of measurement collected for the website, Jones estimates that 10 percent to 15 percent of them came as a surprise to him.

 “The age profile is very young,” Jones says of the two counties. “The median age is much lower than I would have guessed.” In 2013, the median age of Benton and Franklin county residents was 34 years old, in comparison to 38 statewide, the website says.

Jones says he was also surprised by the strength of median household income in that area. Both counties reported median income levels a little higher than Washington state as a whole.

Median household income in Benton and Franklin counties in 2013 was $58,429, compared with $58,405 for the rest of the state. In the city of Richland alone, median household income was $68,825, the website says.

“The website offers information designed to create a healthy and vibrant community by making data available for every sector of the two counties,” Jones says. 

An ad-hoc committee of Benton and Franklin county business and community leaders approached the institute a little more than a year ago, asking EWU to build the website. Jones says it took a year for his department to gather the information.

Five years ago, the institute developed a similar database tracking northeastern Washington trends. That database includes information about Ferry, Pend Oreille, and Stevens counties. 

The institute created the Community Indicators of Spokane site in 2006, in cooperation with the Inland Northwest Community Foundation. Under its Community Indicators Initiative, it has created similar websites for 10 other counties across the state of Washington and North Idaho, in addition to one in Fresno, Calif.

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