Why Local Jobs Are Critical to a Sustainable Pierce County

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Pierce County is growing fast and that news comes with mixed emotions for many people in this community. We have watched as King County has struggled with growth challenges like affordable housing, traffic, and increased pressure on natural areas. This same sort of growth is coming to Pierce County and how we prepare for that change will largely determine the sustainability of Pierce County into the future. 

Pierce County has a Jobs Problem 

Roughly 40% of our non-miltary working residents travel out of the county every day to go to work. It is why you can sit on I-5 for up to 2 hours in the morning to get to Seattle and why many of the park and rides are full by 6 am for the Sounder. I have often said that every job created in Pierce County is a 'green job' because it does not require a person to travel outside the county to go to work. Spending three hours a day commuting to work is bad for you and it is bad for our community. Long commutes are tied to lower IQ's, obesity, stress, and limits the time and energy we have to spend with family and friends. The most sustainable thing anyone can do is live near your work, but for too many Pierce County residents that is not a viable option.

Poor Health Outcomes

Pierce County was recently ranked 24th out of 39 counties for health outcomes. Our neighbors fared better, with King County ranked 2nd and Thurston County ranked 7th. My best guess is that long commutes are one of the primary reasons why we lag so far behind our neighbors in healthy living. If you are stuck in traffic your body is likely not getting the exercise it needs to be healthy and that leads to stress and other bad habits.    

The Good News

There are smart ways to make growth pay for the quality of life improvements that our community needs. Last year the Pierce County Council passed a parks impact fee that will make new growth pay for improvements in our parks and trails system. And new Pierce County Executive Dammeier has made creating new jobs a top priority of his administration. 

From the top of Mt. Rainier to the Orca's of Puget Sound we have a lot to offer people looking for a great quality of life. A mix of affordability and natural beauty will eventually create jobs in Pierce County. Our challenge is to create the right conditions to help make sure that local talent can stay home and make a good living in Pierce County. If we can get Pierce County residents good local jobs their health will improve and they will have time to be more involved in their community. We will make progress towards a sustainable future for Pierce County but it will take creative partnerships like South Sound Together to get us there. A future where people can find good jobs in Pierce County is worth fighting for. 



Sustainability Month Challenge

Send me a photo of you walking, riding your bike or hiking and you will be entered to win lunch with the Sustainability Manager.


To Kristin Lynett for organizing The 10th annual South Sound Sustainability Expo. It attracted over 2,300 people to learn about sustainability and the good work local organizations are doing.

Ask an Expert

Q: What is the economic theory of the ‘Second Paycheck’?

A: Pierce County is the home of Mt. Tahoma (Rainier), The Nisqually, Puyallup, and White Rivers and we have Puget Sound as our front porch. Quality of life is the ‘second paycheck’ and it is an important strategic benefit to conserve. How much money would it take to get you to move to New Jersey?  

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