Guest Column: Forum to discuss future of Tri-Cities

One of the beauties of the Tri-Cities is our ability to change direction and to accept new ideas.

When I arrived here in the late 1980s, the Tri-Cities was heading into a boom period. The WPPSS debacle and B Reactor layoffs were distant memories to many — and ancient history to us newcomers who didn’t go through those dark days.

Like many of you, I came to the Tri-Cities with a plan: Put in a couple of years, then get back to the west side where I belonged. But something happened along the way. I no longer pined for the views of the Olympic Mountains that I grew up with. I began to appreciate our rolling hills, and I enjoyed the relative lack of traffic and crime compared with the more crowded side of my home state. And I certainly didn’t mind trading up from Western Washington’s gray for this sun-drenched region.

I’ve also come to adore the Tri-Cities’ ability to embrace change and pivot toward something better. We are not so set in our ways that we must always do things because that’s the way they’ve always been done.

In the past decade in particular, we have enjoyed so much positive change in our community. We take greater advantage of our open spaces (I recently climbed Badger Mountain for the first time), and we have done a better job of supporting locally owned businesses amid the chain stores and restaurants that tend to dominate the landscape.

Medical companies also have improved dramatically. A half-decade ago, I felt no need to flee the Tri-Cities for cancer care because I was able to find world-class doctors just 10 minutes from my home.

Today, the arts community in the Tri-Cities is thriving like never before. One of my best friends is a poet who actually is able to make a living here.

This happens here because we have dreamers. So what is next for the Tri-Cities? Can we imagine what we will have in five years? In a decade? What will the Tri-Cities look like when my 11-year-old daughter is my age?

For some of the answers, the Columbia Basin Badger Club has put together a public forum from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 29 at the Richland Shilo Inn. On the dais will be three people with different backgrounds and fresh ideas that could help take our community in new directions. They include:

• Michael Tormanen, co-owner of The Local Coffee Shop in Kennewick. He is part of an entrepreneurial team that hopes to build a facility here that is similar to the remarkable Pybus Market in Wenatchee.

• Allen Shoup is former CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and went on to create Long Shadows Vintners in Walla Walla. He has helped shape Washington’s $10 billion-per-year wine industry for more than three decades. He is the definition of a visionary.

• Tim Arntzen is executive director of the Port of Kennewick, which is working on re-inventing Vista Field, the West Richland raceway and areas in and around Clover Island and Columbia Drive in Kennewick.

To attend this important forum, register at http://tinyurl.com/Badgers052915 or call 509-628-6011. Cost is $20 for members, $25 for nonmembers and $30 on the day of the forum. Lunch is included in the cost of this forum.