In 2005, AE was retained by the Port of Benton and Pacific Northwest National Lab to develop a Land-Use and Marketing Plan for the 1,600-acre Research District in the northern area of Richland, Washington. The scope of work included identifying private investment opportunities to support PNNL’s objectives; addressing future use for privately owned property in the District; identifying future public sector investment potentials; assessing and comparing the taxation environment in the District and benchmarking it against other research parks; identifying 4 best practice case studies and benchmarking these cases against the District’s opportunities; assessing the infrastructure of the District and its ability to sustain a technology park; and assessing the feasibility and providing recommendations for establishing District boundaries.

At the time, the District employed more than 5,000 people, contained 3.4 million square feet of lab and office space and was home to more than 90 Richland and Hanford businesses, federal agencies, labs, and Washington State University. The largest occupant in the Research District is Pacific Northwest National Lab. PNNL is one of nine national laboratories performing basic and applied research to deliver energy, environmental, and national security for our nation. During the project, AE identified new opportunities for corporate development surrounding PNNL and WSU-Tri-Cities, reviewing the economic assets of the Research District and identifying specific industries that the District should target. AE also developed a Marketing Plan to target technology-based organizations and businesses.

As of 2007, more than 7,000 people were employed in the newly named Tri-Cities Research District, which has been designated as an Innovation Partnership Zone by the State of Washington. Since the completion of the study in 2006, a developer has purchased much of the land and hired an architect to develop a master plan for what may be a sustainability-themed technology park in the District.