In 1902, Grant County was carved out of Douglas County as its own county. Grant County is the fourth largest county in the state in terms of land area, but is sparsely populated. It is located toward the central-eastern edge of the state in the Columbia Basin. On the north end of the county is the Grand Coulee Dam, which is the largest electric power-producing facility in the United States and one of the largest concrete structures in the world.
Grant County is relatively flat, making it ideal for raising livestock on its dry grassland, which was the primary draw for white settlers in the mid-1880s. The coming of the railroad helped move more settlers into farming as it provided a means to get products to market. The semi-arid climate created a challenge for farming, with most farmers locating near water sources.
All Agricultural photos are compliments of “Friehe Farms” in Moses Lake.
Grant County industry has been heavily concentrated in ranching and agriculture. Many of the county’s early residents were sheep and cattle ranchers. The transition to fruit and crop farming as the dominant industries resulted from the development of adequate irrigation capacity starting in the 1930s.
Today, agriculture still plays a large role for the area, which is known for its tree fruit, irrigated farming of a variety of crops and the associated food processing industry, which makes up a large part of the nondurable-goods manufacturing sector. In 2017 for example, food processing (NAICS 311) provided 42.0 percent of the 4,874 manufacturing jobs in Grant County. Employers in this sector manufacture frozen fruits and vegetables, as well as frozen specialty foods and canned fruits. Grant County food processors know and trust the quality and variety of locally grown crops including potatoes, apples, wheat, barley, carrots, corn, onions, peaches, cherries, mint, beans, etc. According to the Grant County Economic Development Council, the county’s 1,858 farms annually produce crops and livestock valued at $1.19 billion. Crops processed here in Grant County make food processing a $364 million industry which still has plenty of room to grow. Access to Interstate 90 and the Burlington-Northern Santa Fe Mainline makes it easy to transport goods by truck or rail to major metro centers such as Seattle, Portland and Chicago. Some of the food processors in Grant County are: Amway/Nutrilite, Asta Real, Basic American Foods, Lamb Weston, Washington Potato Co., Pacific Coast Canola, Quincy Foods, J. R. Simplot Co., and National Frozen Foods.
A testimony to the importance of agriculture to the Grant County economy was provided in the 2012 Agricultural Census produced by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). According to the NASS, in calendar year 2012, Grant County registered the highest volume of agricultural sales ($1.7 billion) in all of Washington’s 39 counties. Crop and livestock sales in the County were $1.1 billion in 2007, the last year in which NASS released county-level sales data. A July 9, 2014 Columbia Basin Herald article entitled Grant County Leads Washington State in Agricultural Sales reported: “The increase between the 2007 and 2012 census was enough to bump Grant County up one spot on the state’s list of top agricultural sellers. In 2007, Grant County had the No. 2 spot on the list, coming in after Yakima County which recorded $1.2 billion in agricultural sales that year.” Yakima County” came in a close second to Grant County during 2012, tallying $1.6 billion in sales.
Analysis using Quarterly Benchmarked data:
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) announced that the national recession occurred from December 2007 through June 2009. The effects of this recession hit the Grant County economy lightly in 2008 (down 0.2 percent), hard in 2009 (down 3.7 percent) and then lightly in 2010 (down 0.3 percent), in terms of losses in total nonfarm employment. The number of nonfarm jobs across Grant County stood at a pre-recession peak of 27,610 jobs in 2007, and it took seven years (until 2014) for the local economy to regain and surpass this figure. In 2014, total nonfarm employment averaged 28,650 jobs. The following is a brief synopsis of average annual local nonfarm employment trends
This was an excellent year for the Grant County economy. Nonfarm employment averaged 30,480, a 1,110 job and 3.8 percent upturn above the 29,370 jobs tallied in 2017. Nonfarm growth was particularly strong in professional and business services (up 510 jobs), information and financial activities (up 270 jobs), and in construction (up 180 jobs). On the downside, durable goods manufacturing lost 170 jobs countywide. Statewide, the nonfarm labor market also had a good year, with nonfarm employment rising by 2.8 percent- again, not as robust as the 3.8 percent job growth pace here in Grant County.