South Sound Business | Business of Puyallup The City’s diverse economy helps make it a Pierce County powerhouse

When people in the South Puget Sound; across Washington state; or even out of state, for that matter, hear the name “Puyallup,” they undoubtedly think of the ditty “Do the Puyallup” — one of the best branding slogans in the history of branding slogans. The slogan, of course, is tied to the Washington State Fair (what used to be known as the Puyallup Fair, prior to the fair’s rebranding campaign that changed the iconic name in 2013 to attract national sponsorships).

That fair still occurs each fall in downtown Puyallup and attracts more than 1.2 million visitors over the course of 20 days. The fair’s annual operating revenues exceeded $30 million last year, and are a big reason why the East Pierce County city of 40,500 plays a vital role in the area’s economy. The fair generates a lot of sales tax revenue for the city, making it a significant part of Puyallup’s economy, too. But in addition to the fair, there are many other reasons Puyallup is a destination city for a variety of employers, including the city’s plentiful single-family and multifamily housing supply; its commercial and industrial centers and world-class healthcare campus; competitive car dealerships; booming shopping centers; and dynamic downtown made up of mom-and-pop stores, bars, and restaurants.

“As we see the cost of living skyrocketing in Seattle and with the Puyallup Sounder station being here and a lot of people heading north (for work) — I think we will see more people coming into Puyallup who live here but don’t work here,” said Steve Kirkelie, Puyallup’s assistant city manager. “And with that, there will be more demand for restaurants and service-types of businesses, and hopefully some businesses up in Seattle-King County will decide to relocate here, where some of their employees live, realizing, ‘Why don’t we be closer to our employees?’ and that there is good opportunity here.”

Anthem Coffee sits in the heart of downtown Puyallup, an area that may be benifitting from the higher cost of living in the Seattle area.

“What is exciting for Puyallup and an opportunity — as we see the cost of living skyrocketing in Seattle and with the Puyallup Sounder station being here and a lot of people heading north (for work) — I think we will see more people coming into Puyallup who live here but don’t work here.”

What keeps Puyallup’s business centers thriving, of course, is an influx of people. Those moving to Puyallup do so for the breadth of recreational opportunities across the city’s parks system, the nationally recognized police department, and the award-winning Puyallup School District.

“You can’t talk about business in Puyallup without talking about residential,” said Tom Utterback, the city’s development services director. “This used to be a bedroom community, but in Puyallup we see a lot of infill development. We see a lot of demand for platting properties wherever possible. People who come here come for the quality of life and the amenities.”

In anticipation of the continued migration of people to the area, Sound Transit is planning a 503-stall parking garage downtown near the transit station, set to open in 2021, with construction beginning in 2019. A new surface lot with 166 stalls is also planned and will open that same year. As of October 2017, ridership in Puyallup ranked the highest on the south line at 1,439 average weekday boardings.

Meanwhile, MultiCare Health System’s medical campus and outlying facilities — employing a combined 3,162 people — continue to grow and expand services, meeting the needs of the hundreds of thousands who call East Pierce County home. The nonprofit is in the midst of activating the top two floors of the eight-patient-floor Dally Tower at Good Samaritan Hospital, which will add 80 new beds and make possible the repurposing of existing spaces to increase capacity and capabilities.

“The hospital’s emergency department is not only the busiest out of MultiCare’s hospitals, but it also has some of the highest patient volumes in the state,” said Marce Edwards, director of media and creative services for MultiCare. “By 2015, a trend of increasingly more days at capacity made it clear that it was time for us to expand.”

The $44.5 million project is set to open in October.

Atop South Hill, one of Puyallup’s two designated regional growth centers, the South Hill Mall continues to add retailers, while big-box department stores like Costco, Walmart, and Lowe’s are some of the highest sales revenue producers in the region, according to Utterback.

“Brick-and-mortar retail nationally has had its woes, but remains strong here in Puyallup,” Utterback said.

The Puyallup City Council also believes there is economic development gold to be realized in the city’s downtown central business district — its other designated regional growth center — within underutilized city-owned property. One property that the council and city staff are focused on for potential redevelopment is the old Cornforth Campbell lot at East Main and Third Street Southeast. The city owns the lot and is working with an advisor on identifying the feasibility of developing the property into mixed-use with potential for restaurant, retail, office, and residential uses.

Kirkelie said five to 10 years into the future, Puyallup will still be Puyallup, but it also will have a lot of new energy. Puyallup is poised to grow to 50,000 residents by 2030.

“That is the challenge: retaining the values and character of Puyallup, honoring the past and tradition, while also looking to the future and being a thriving community,” Kirkelie said.