Tacoma/Pierce County is a great place to….

How would you finish this sentence?

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

“Tacoma/Pierce County is a great place to live, work and….”

A. Raise a family

B. Do business

C. Play

D. All of the above

I’ve been to many meetings, luncheons and events in the past year or two where the phrase above was completed in one of the choices given – except the last one.

It is obvious to any observer that Tacoma/Pierce County is being challenged by opportunities and difficulties it has never seen before.

It is not just our highways that are under unprecedented pressure – our laws, building codes and zoning regulations are being changed, challenged or re-interpreted as population and other dynamics related to economic growth and development continue their relentless momentum.

The past few years are certainly among the most dramatic in terms of change, growth and possibilities both explored and manifested.

Challenges to our community identity are near constant.

Long abandoned warehouses, or even entire neighborhoods are being reclaimed and creatively re-used as breweries, cafes and art galleries.

Construction projects – and cranes – dominate our landscape in places we might expect – like downtown Tacoma – and many places most of us never would have imagined – like 6th Avenue, Stadium District and Point Ruston.

In fact some places, like Point Ruston, literally did not even exist just a few years ago.

Just a few years ago, at the deepest depths of the Great Recession, those few projects that had begun had been left forlorn and abandoned and every neighborhood – even the North End – had empty, foreclosed houses on almost every block. Many for years.

The convergence and contrast of past and future, nature and artifice is a common, yet always surprising experience around Tacoma. Photo: Morf Morford

The convergence and contrast of past and future, nature and artifice is a common, yet always surprising experience around Tacoma. Photo: Morf Morford

Recovery from economic downturns is always partial, erratic and unevenly distributed. Some neighborhoods are flourishing – some are languishing.

More people are moving here, real estate prices (and rents) are increasing by the week. And, ever so slowly, businesses are relocating here, which means that more jobs will be based here and, finally, the daily mass exodus to King County will moderate, if not decline.

Like any community, we have growing pains. False promises are as common as objections. NIMBYism confronts inevitable growth and development.

Growth, like decline, is incremental. No single act, policy or project defines a trend, but the accumulation of choices makes itself known in neighborhoods and business districts.

The Great Recession, according to standard economic criteria, ended in the third quarter of 2009. Its effects lingered for years.

Economic momentum, in either direction, takes years to take tangible shape.

Ten years into our recovery from the Great Recession, Tacoma/Pierce County, for a variety of reasons, has been “discovered” by media, both regional and national – if not international.

Tacoma, like other cities, has seen “boom” times – when growth seemed inevitable and unstoppable.

We’ve also seen years, if not decades, where it seemed that Tacoma would never gain its footing as a community.

Our challenge is not only to channel growth in directions we can be proud to pass on to future generations, but perhaps, more importantly, to build a foundation for those same future occupants of our city.

To best answer this question, I am convinced, is to choose D to the multiple choice question at the top of this page.

To raise a family is the ultimate investment in any community. Many families have deep, multi-generational roots here. Many Puyallup tribal members have been here for more generations than they can count.

Every day more people move here with the intention to stay.

As I mentioned earlier, more and more businesses are locating or expanding here – many more are still taking root and are taking shape and responding to local market forces.

This too is an investment in the community.

Tacoma's night market at Alma Mater (https://www.almamatertacoma.com/ ) at 1322 South Fawcett offers activities for every age and interest.  Photo: Morf Morford

Tacoma’s night market at Alma Mater (https://www.almamatertacoma.com/) at 1322 South Fawcett offers activities for every age and interest. Photo: Morf Morford

Answer C, to play, is to enjoy the resources of the community. This is easy to do in the greater Tacoma area. We have parks, beaches and family friendly experiences that are affordable and accessible for almost anyone.

Every city, I presume, has parks, but we have city, county, state and even national parks close by, within walking distance of most neighborhoods. And, of course, a mountain almost continually in sight.

In fact, I would propose that the mountain defines us in ways that most of us may not have considered – it is always there.

Boom times and recessions come and go. Businesses and families make their mark and move on. Industries and communities flourish, but even the most prosperous  have no guarantees for the future.

I would have to say that, compared to all the cities I have visited, Tacoma/Pierce County is a great place…