Journalists’ Reference Guide

Washington state is divided into 39 counties for administrative purposes. Five of these counties comprise the Greater Seattle region: King, Kitsap, Pierce, Snohomish and Thurston. Kitsap County is located on the western edge of the region and shares its eastern border with Pierce County. Pierce, King and Snohomish make up the eastern part of the region and are located, south to north, along the Interstate 5 corridor. Seattle is in King County. Tacoma is in Pierce County and Everett is in Snohomish County.

Everett, Washington, is the county seat of one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation. Everett is home to more than 96,000 citizens on 25,000 acres of land and 9,600 acres of water. Along with its strong economy that provides more jobs than there are residents, the area boasts a wide range of family-centered entertainment, cultural, recreational and educational opportunities. Everett is a center of economic development with an expanding
high-technology industrial base, a deep-water port accessing the Pacific Ocean, an established, world-renowned manufacturing and retail core and state-of-the-art naval station. Industrialists from the east saw Everett’s potential as a business hub more than a century ago and led its development as a lumber and mill town. Today, the area offers a high quality of life, a vital center for businesses of all types and an important deep-water port that provides access to overseas markets.

The city was named by the area’s first white settlers in the 1850’s after a local Native American tribal chief, Chief Sealth, whose name the settlers mispronounced. Seattle is located on the eastern shore of Puget Sound, approximately 90 air miles (144 km) east of the Pacific coastline. It is the largest city in Washington, with a population of over 560,000 people. Seattle is the home of the University of Washington, one of the premier educational and research institutions in the nation. The Port of Seattle is one of the largest container facilities in the United States, with more than 400 acres (162 hectares) of container terminal space, 24 container cranes and an average of 65 steamship calls a month. The Port of Seattle has one of the finest, natural deep-draft harbors in the world. Seattle is one of only six cities nationally to have a major symphony, opera and ballet company, and has one of the country’s leading theater communities. In fact, more arts organizations exist in the Greater Seattle area than in any other region of its size in the country. Seattle is home to professional basketball, soccer, baseball and American football teams. It is the nation’s model city for recycling. Seattle is also the undisputed espresso capital of America, leading the gourmet coffee trend.

Clear views of Mount Rainier and the glistening water of the Puget Sound offer a dramatic backdrop for the ever-changing life of Tacoma: The City of Destiny, Washington’s third largest city,and growing all the time. Tacoma is one of the West’s most ecologically diverse areas with an abundance of sea life at its shores and frequent bald eagle sightings in its skies. Home to a magnificent deep-water port, major rail and highway links and offering easy access to a major international airport, the City of Destiny, a name given to Tacoma by her founding fathers a century ago, still rings true today. Tacoma’s recent business growth has come not only from world trade, but also from a $100 million investment by the City of Tacoma in the largest municipally owned telecommunications network in the country. This business advantage, known as Click! Network, offers a cable television and data-sharing system, which connects Tacoma businesses and residents with the global economy like never before. The availability of Click! has allowed Tacoma to market itself around the world as “America’s #1 Wired City.”

King County
King County encompasses approximately 2,126 square miles (3,400 square km), making it about the same size as Luxemburg. It stretches from the shores of Puget Sound to the crest of the Cascade Mountains. King County, with 1.7 million inhabitants, is the 14th largest county in the United States. King County offers a diverse economic base ranging from high-tech firms like Microsoft on the “Eastside” of Lake Washington, which includes the city of Bellevue, to the manufacturing and distribution sector of the Kent Valley. Boeing Commercial Airplanes is the leading exporter in the area. Nearly 400 international firms have a presence in King County. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac), located 13 miles (20.9 km) south of Seattle, ranks as one of the largest gateways in the United States and is considered one of the safest and most convenient airports in the nation.

Snohomish County
Snohomish is the northernmost county in the Greater Seattle area (population 622,900). The county seat and most populous city is Everett (population 95,990). Originally a mill town, Everett and the county were heavily dependent on lumber. In fact, early residents proclaimed their town the “roof shingle capital of the world.” More recently, however, aerospace and shipping have become central to the local economy. Boeing’s 777/747/767 assembly plant, the largest building in the world, is located there. Everett is also home to the new navy homeport. Numerous high technology companies, from software to biotechnology, are located in Snohomish County. Higher education has a strong presence in the county. The University of Washington has a branch campus in Bothell that serves both King and Snohomish counties. Everett and Edmonds community colleges also serve the region.

Pierce County
Bordering King County on the south, Pierce County (population 719,407) is the state’s second largest in population. Tacoma (population 193,556) is the largest of 21 cities and towns within the county. Pierce is one of the most geographically diverse counties in the United States, rising from sea level on Puget Sound to Mount Rainier’s summit at 14,411 feet (4,392 m). While wood and paper products have been prominent in the county’s history, the economy continues to diversify. High tech companies are located in the county, along with a Boeing Company fabrication facility. The Weyerhaeuser Company, a timber industry giant, was founded in Tacoma. The global investment firm Frank Russell Company advises many of the world’s largest pension plans from its Tacoma headquarters. The Port of Tacoma is one of North America’s leading container ports. Six container carriers and their alliance partners offer service to major load centers in Asia, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the U.S. West Coast. The military also is an important part of the county’s economic base with two large facilities, Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base, located there. Tourism, bolstered by Mount Rainier’s presence, is an important and growing industry. Point Defiance Park in Tacoma is the second-largest city park in the nation. The park contains popular flower gardens and a nationally acclaimed zoo and aquarium. The Washington State History Museum promises to be one of the region’s most popular attractions and is part of “museum row” in Tacoma, including the Museum of Glass and Tacoma Art Museum. The museums are part of a downtown renaissance that also includes the Broadway Theatre District, Union Station/Federal Courthouse complex and the University of Washington campus construction project.

Washington State
Washington state was formed from what was once the Oregon Territory. The name comes from the date on which the U.S. Congress granted a charter for statehood on the 157th anniversary of George Washington’s birthday. In the early days of our history, salmon fishing and fur trading were the primary industries here. The area was originally inhabited by Native American groups. The Cascade Mountain range separated the Coastal and Plains Indians. The mountains still divide Washington into two distinct geographical regions. The early European explorers came here looking for the Northwest Passage, the mythical water route to the Atlantic. Although they never found it, they did chart and explore many of the coastal waterways. Later, the fertile valleys east of the mountains were discovered and used for agriculture. Today Washington still benefits from a vibrant fishing industry and an ever-expanding list of crops produced all over the state.