OLYMPIA – Spokane remains Washington’s second-largest city, according to the state Office of Financial Management, which compiles annual population estimates.
Even without counting three recent annexations, the city of Spokane holds a 600-person lead over perennial second-city rival Tacoma. Those annexations – totaling 1,469 people – will be added to Spokane’s total next year. So it looks like Spokane has a lock on the title, at least for now.
Spokane Valley, though, has reason to be nervous. With 85,010 people, it’s clinging to eighth place by the state’s estimation. But 84,920-person Kent is right on its heels. And new numbers are due out Thursday morning, when the U.S. Census Bureau releases its own data for 2004.
Overall, the state grew at a healthy clip, adding 88,600 people over the past year, according to Theresa Lowe, the state’s chief demographer. That’s a 1.4 percent increase, up slightly from the previous year’s increase of 1.1 percent.
“This is the first time since the early ‘90s that we’ve had increasing growth for two consecutive years,” she said. “A large part of it is in the Puget Sound region and in Clark County, but the Tri-Cities is growing and Spokane is growing, too.”
Not growing, however, is the tiny city of Krupp, west of Odessa, in Grant County.
“It’s a small, dying farm community because of the government policies that keep killing out the farmers,” said Tracy Lesser, a wheat and cattle farmer who’s been mayor since the 1980s. Krupp is the smallest city in Washington, with a population numbering 60 people. That’s down from last year’s 65.
The city, built around a rail line and grain elevator, no longer has any stores or a gas station. The school closed in the mid-1960s. The city duties consist largely of maintaining a cemetery, small park and community building, as well as keeping the weeds at bay. Most of the work is done by a handful of volunteers. The city clerk is paid $480 a year.
“Most of the time, there’s more cattle in town than people,” said Mayor Lesser.
As for the growing areas of the state, it’s no mystery why they’re expanding, Lowe said; it’s jobs. Population gains typically lag employment increases by 6 to 12 months, she said. Boeing – which laid off tens of thousands of workers in recent years – has been hiring again. The state’s software industry is recovering. She said the fastest-growing county in the state is Franklin County, in the Tri-Cities area, due primarily to money flowing into Hanford projects.
Other fast-growing counties: Clark County (13.4 percent), Benton County (11 percent) and San Juan County (10.1 percent). All told, there are now 3.8 million Washingtonians.
Spokane and Tacoma are growing at about the same rate, with each adding 1,300 residents over the past year. That’s a big change from the previous year, when Spokane showed no population growth at all.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Marty Dickinson, president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership. “More people are coming to live downtown. They’re working downtown and playing downtown. That adds vibrancy – and keeps adding to the head count.”
It also helps that graduates from Spokane-area colleges seem to be more able to find jobs and stay in the city, according to Jon Eliassen, president of the Spokane Area Economic Development Council.
“That’s an interesting change from 5 or 10 years ago, when a lot of people felt they had to leave Spokane to find the job they wanted,” he said.
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