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In 1950, Kent was the 40th biggest city in Washington state. Now, it’s sixth. In fact, according to an October 2017 study, Kent is now the second fastest growing midsize city in the United States, behind only Frisco, Texas.
Kent’s history is steeped in hops – that’s actually why it’s named Kent, after the County of Kent, a hops-growing region in England.
Ben Wolters, the Director of Economy and Community Development for the City of Kent credits the location (it’s halfway between Seattle and Tacoma) for the city's business boom, like the various stores at the shiny new Kent Station and Jeff Bezos’s space company, Blue Origin. Wolters says those factors – and relatively affordable housing – bring Kent an influx of diversity.
“We do face some issues that come with massive growth – like traffic congestion and housing issues, but it’s location, location, location. Longtime residents love it here, and it’s attractive to new residents, too," said Wolters.
Wayne Curran, the owner of Page Turner Books in Old Kent, says the diversity is one of Kent’s best attributes – especially for a small business like his.
“You have Blue Origin right down the street, which brings in highly-intelligent engineers. It used to be a farming community, so you have a good mixture," said Curran.
Last month, a hate crime at Kent-Meridian High School illustrated the very real challenges that diversity can bring. But to the residents we spoke with, it’s still a net positive and one they take pride in.“The issues are here, but there’s a lot of conversations among different groups – businesses, schools – on how to solve them,” said Cynthia Boyd, a longtime Kent resident with two children in the school district.
“You see people from all over the world. I’ve had people from New Zealand, from Nigeria … it’s amazing to sit and get to talk to them and hear their stories," says Curran. Boyd added, “I always say, Kent actually is a big city, but it still has a small town feel.”