During her March 14 State of the City speech, Kent Mayor Dana Ralph outlined some of the strengths and changes in Kent’s economy, and some of the ways the city plans to lean into those industries.
Ralph highlighted some of the economic growth that has occurred in Kent following the pandemic, citing that since 2021, the city has seen a 21 percent increase in new business licenses, which has also corresponded with a 51 percent increase in jobs.
She said since 2020, the city has seen an additional 2.5 million square feet of real estate constructed, evaluated to be worth around $195 million. She also said the city added roughly 60 acres of new industrial development in the past year.
“Think about all the companies, think about all the people that are coming to work in our Kent Valley,” she said. “That is a lot of new development.”
The mayor also emphasized the city’s efforts to redesign the commercial and industrial areas in Kent to become more “people-centric,” with amenities such as recreational spaces close to where people are spending their work day. She spoke of childcare services, public transit, restaurants and businesses like dry cleaners all within the same area, so that employers hiring in Kent can be more successful in drawing in employees.
She said the Kent Valley is home to about 250,000 jobs.
Ralph said during the pandemic, as the shipping industry grew in demand, the Kent Valley became a regional supply chain hub for companies like Amazon. She said despite all the “For Lease” signs that travelers may find on warehouses and offices in the Kent Valley, which she called a marketing trick used by real estate brokers, the area only has a 4 percent vacancy rate.
“We’ve proven to be absolutely valuable and critical to regional and national supply chains,” Ralph said. “Think about everybody when they were locked in their houses buying all those things from Amazon and mail order. A lot of that came through the Kent Valley.”
She said Kent has one of the largest distribution and warehousing centers in the country.
Kent has also become one of Washington’s largest contributors to the aerospace economy, contributing approximately $5 billion to the state’s economy, Ralph said. Ralph said Kent has about half of the state’s space sector jobs.
Ralph maintained that the city plans to lean into the space and advanced manufacturing industries by investing in and cultivating skills and interest in the field. She highlighted a $600,000 investment in the Kent School District to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs and education.
“We have got to train the future workforce,” she said. “There are so many talented people working in these businesses in the valley, and we want to ensure that our kids, our students, have access to them, so they are well-equipped and competitive in finding fulfilling and impactful careers in Kent’s strongest industries.”
Ralph also announced a space-themed park across from City Hall, which will include an “interactive” lunar rover replica, as well as plans to develop an augmented reality space exploration experience for children and families.
“This park memorializes our role in space innovation,” Ralph said. “Kids can go inside that lander and they can pretend to be piloting it, they can look over and they talk to their other friends at mission control. They can have that interactive play, and hopefully build those dreams that are going to give them inspiration to pursue those careers.”
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