Businesses may be struggling nationwide but they seem to be holding their own in West Richland.
About 20 new businesses – tanning salons, real estate companies and financial advisers – have come to West Richland in the past two years, says Mary Hays, executive director of the West Richland Area Chamber of Commerce. More than 75 percent of the city’s commercial property is occupied, something not many communities can boast about, said mayor Dale Jackson.
The city of about 12,500 people has been known as a Hanford bedroom community and has struggled for years to develop more of a retail base. But, officials say, they’re slowing gaining a commercial foothold.
Jackson confirmed a hotel chain has agreed to look at the almost 8,000-acre Lewis and Clark Ranch as a potential destination resort.
A national restaurant has shown interest in opening near Kadlec Clinic West Richland Primary Care at the corner of Bombing Range and Keene roads.
Jackson credits the city’s hiring of an economic development specialist about two years ago to help recruit new businesses and population growth for generating additional revenue. Also, having Yoke’s Fresh Market as an anchor tenant on Bombing Range Road helped attract several small businesses, Jackson said. Small businesses like restaurants often tend to cluster and grow, he said.
The growth has spurred taxable retail sales, which increased 35 percent to about $18.9 million in the last quarter of 2008, compared with the same time the year before.
By the end of March, the city’s share of retail tax revenue was up 29 percent, compared with the same period last year, said Jackson. It’s significant considering surrounding cities have lost retail tax revenue.
He says the city needs more retail growth and economic development to capture an estimated 41.5 million in sales tax that gets leaked to other cities when West Richland residents shop elsewhere. That number comes from comparing the state’s average per capita sales tax and the amount the city collects.
Because a variety of services now are locally available, people living in West Richland won’t have to travel to other cities, Hays said.
Henry’s Restaurant & Catering moved from Richland to West Richland’s Van Giesen Street in November.
Hays and her husband launched The Sandberg Event Center & Gardens at 331 S. 41st Avenue. The couple also started another business nearby, The Gathering Place Bistro & Gifts earlier this year.
White Bluffs Center for Quilting & Fiber Arts recently opened on West Van Giesen. It’s an organization of quilting, weaving, spinning and basketry guilds and groups that offers classes and helps Tri-City fiber artists to sell their creations, said Virginia Treadway, president of the center’s board of directors. The group decided to set up shop in the city because “the city understood the economic benefits of having us,” Treadway said.
Business has been really good, said Darrell Toombs, manager at the West Richland Yoke’s. The continued growth of the city has helped the store, which opened about three years ago and employs about 90 people.
A lot of out-of-towners who come to the West Richland Municipal Golf Course often shop at local businesses, said course owner Michelle Marcum. It’s about convenience, she said.
She said the improvements she made at the course helped bring in golfers to the community. “Membership has grown about 10 percent a year.”
Currently, she’s operating a restaurant, bar and pro shop in a temporary 2,800-square foot building but she plans to build a new clubhouse in a few months. Marcum also recently hired Joe Perdue, a Class A pro-golfer from Michigan, as director of the golf course.
She said she thinks the addition of a hotel in town will help support retail business. Often she sends golfers from outside the Tri-Cities who want to spend some time in the area, to stay in hotels in other cities, Marcum said.
A majority of city residents are young professional families with disposable income, Jackson said. “We’re growing as a young family community.”
Henry’s owner Don Karger said a desire to expand his catering business and to be close to customers brought him to West Richland. The city council and staff helped him with permitting to make the relocation process go smoothly, he said. “We started remodeling in middle of September and we opened in the middle of November,” he said.
Karger expects the town to develop in a big way in the next five years or so. “Richland can’t expand too much any more. But West Richland can,” he said.
The City has a vision and a plan, says Jackson, that includes revitalization of the Van Giesen corridor and zoning changes to promote mixed use development, particularly in the proposed Red Mountain Center near Van Giesen and Ruppert Road.
Also, the development of Lewis and Clark Ranch, a conceptual master planned destination community in the northwestern part of town, and new wine-related businesses at the foot of Red Mountain are on the city’s to-do list, Jackson said.
The development may not happen overnight, but the city’s partnership with the Port of Kennewick, local chamber of commerce and businesses will pave the way for future growth, said Jackson who recently attended an International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas.
Developers are definitely interested in knowing more abut west Richland, he said.