Kelly Coughlin, executive director of the SnoValley Chamber of Commerce, loves her home, where frequent kayaking adventures are simply part of daily life. The Snoqualmie Valley, considered the gateway to the Cascade mountains, consists of a handful of communities, including Preston/ Fall City, Snoqualmie, North Bend, Snoqualmie Pass, and Carnation.
The Valley also features 50-plus parks, more than 62 miles of trails, dozens of vibrant farms, and nine wineries, not to mention alluring attractions like Snoqualmie Casino and Salish Lodge & Spa (of Twin Peaks fame). “
We’re pretty fortunate,” Coughlin said. “We’re booming up here. Here, it’s like you’re living in a small town, but you have more access.” And natural beauty abounds, she adds. It’s not unusual to see someone hiking Mount Si or zooming up the hill on a mountain bike after their workday has ended. Yet it’s clear by this region’s thriving business scene that, although residents certainly enjoy their outdoor recreation time, many are industrious workers with great vision and drive.
“People come out to live and work and play all in one place,” Coughlin said.
Danna McCall, public information officer and communications manager for the City of North Bend, noted that, even in these times, new businesses continue to open in the Valley — Sno-King Ice Arena (a 72,500-square-foot venue that will include two NHL-sized ice sheets) and Aroma Coffee (in Fall City), for example, as well as other projects still moving forward.
“(This) is refreshing,” she said. “It gives a sense of hope that things eventually will get back to normal. People are also continuing to move to the Snoqualmie Valley; the housing market is booming even in light of COVID-19.”
David Miller, North Bend city administrator and community development director, added that North Bend currently is processing the largest National Guard Readiness Center in Washington state, including a 160,000-square-foot class A office building that will house training facilities for the National Guard with some space subleased to a community college. In addition, Miller said, “Several businesses are being moved through the development-permitting process, such as Bakes Marine, Sapherlite, an appliance-servicing and retail center, a year-round private sports field, and many more. Public land management agencies with stewardship for the vast outdoor recreation lands have located in North Bend.”
“(The region’s) both close enough and far enough to (and from) bigger cities,” McCall said, “and so it creates a sweet spot for many companies when looking for a place to call home and plant roots.” For example, top employers range from Allegion (Technical Glass Products) and Zetec to T-Mobile, Puget Sound Energy, and Genie Industries. Snoqualmie’s DirtFish, an esteemed rally school, draws drivers from around the world, and Spacelabs Healthcare, which once made equipment used for the Apollo moon landing, now creates technology used by professionals caring for COVID-19 patients. Dru Bru draws beer aficionados to Snoqualmie Pass, while North Bend’s Karakoram makes coveted splitboard bindings that easily turn snowboards into skis.
Historically, Miller explained, North Bend (incorporated in 1909) was a logging town. By the 1970s, after years of being a small hamlet, the community witnessed the construction of I-90, making freeway-oriented businesses a staple of the economy. In the 1980s, Nintendo arrived with a distribution center; at the same time, communities like North Bend evolved into bedroom communities to employment centers in the expanding Seattle metropolitan area. This spurred fast residential growth, as single-family residential subdivisions became the main development product.
“North Bend has always been an escape for Seattle- area residents to get to the Cascades within a short drive,” Miller said. “And its beautiful scenery has attracted tourists.” Currently, these residential communities continue to draw metropolitan-area workers, too. “The schools are highly rated, and small-town life is highly desirable. North Bend continues to actively recruit family wage-paying businesses, focusing on the technology sectors. There is steady residential infill in our downtown. Low land prices, high quality of life, and great schools and availability of land are currently driving development interest in North Bend.” Today, North Bend’s population is 7,500 and growing at a rate of 3 to 4 percent annually.
“People know each other,” McCall summarized. “It’s a safe place. Snoqualmie Valley kids attend the same community high school.” She recalls a friend once visiting and remarking, “It’s like you live in the ’50s,” as he watched the kids cycle around the cul-de-sac.
In light of the pandemic, McCall has seen effective community collaboration in the Snoqualmie Valley. “The Chamber of Commerce, the cities, and school district have really been working together to figure out how to support small businesses, working families, and kids,” she said. “It’s been wonderful to see folks pulling together to keep moving forward.”
“We have a great community that has pulled together to support one another family to family, business to business, and customer to businesses,” added North Bend Mayor Rob McFarland. “Every day, we see a new example of positive ways people are reaching out. It’s very gratifying.”