Communities in Commute: The Driving Workforce

Posted on Jul 24, 2015

Every morning 12,473 Grant County residents wake up, shower, eat breakfast, and then get in the car and drive outside of the county to go work. At the same time, 12,970 people that live outside Grant County are going through the same morning routine - except when they get in the car they drive into Grant County to go work.

In places like Seattle or Los Angeles we would expect people to commute from outside the area to go to work. We are familiar with the term “bedroom community” or “commuter town,” and every metropolitan area experiences this to some degree.

For example, one third of the jobs in King County are held by people who live outside of the County. This makes sense for King County though because it is home to Seattle and there are 223,000 more jobs located inside King County then there are workers living in King County.

But in Grant County, it is different. Here, the number of local jobs and the number of local workers are essentially equal. It isn’t necessary to import workers due to a lack of local workforce as is the case in King County. In Grant County, the same number of resident workers that leave each day pretty much equals the number of non-resident workers that enter.

There are a number of factors that play a role in this labor market dynamic. People may prefer to live in one community regardless of where their job is located. I have friends that live in Moses Lake and work in Othello, and others that live in Wenatchee and work in Quincy. You probably know people who commute in a similar way.

The relationship between these different communities and commuting patterns is commonly referred to as the laborshed and it is one of the foundational concepts of economic development. Cities, Counties, and States all have defined geographic boundaries and when you drive past one of these imaginary lines there is usually a sign stating that you are now entering or leaving whatever city, county, or state it is.

But no such lines exist in a laborshed. Unless you are driving into Mexico or Canada there are no signs on the highway that say you have now left the area where you are eligible to work or seek employment. Because no such lines exist, laborsheds are hard to define with precision. What we do know about our laborshed is that it extends well beyond Grant County in all directions.

This is why the Grant County Economic Development Council has teamed up with Spokane, Adams, Yakima, Benton, and other counties in eastern Washington to do joint marketing trips, meet with businesses, and attend trade shows. We have found that working together across the laborshed has opened doors and opportunities that we would not be able to access otherwise.

Make no mistake, we spend a great deal of time on our own marketing efforts to promote the cities and towns that make up Grant County. But businesses recognize that the Grant County economy blends into the Adams County economy, and the Douglas and Chelan County economy and vice versa. This dynamic makes all of our economies stronger and better suited for continued growth and prosperity.

Jonathan Smith - Executive Director

Data cited comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies “On the Map” tool located at