With 200,000 residents, Tacoma is the third-largest city in Washington state. It is located south of Seattle, between Mount Rainier and Commencement Bay. The bay provides a natural deep water port that spurred the city's early economic development. In 1873 the Northern Pacific Railroad made Tacoma and the port the western terminus for its transcontinental rail line. By the turn of the 20th century, Tacoma's population approached 40,000 people, and the city bustled with sawmills, coal mines, and flour mills.
For more than 100 years, the city's economy has centered on the Port of Tacoma. Today it is the sixth-largest container port in the country, handling more than $36 billion in annual trade. The port's activities are directly connected to more than 28,000 jobs in Pierce County, which generate nearly $500 million in annual wages. The top five import commodities are machinery, vehicles and vehicle parts, clothing and textiles, footwear, and toys and sports equipment. The top five export commodities are grains, meat, aircraft and aircraft parts, chemicals, and vehicles and vehicle parts. The port connects to the rest of the country through two transcontinental railroads as well as Interstates 5 and 90.
In addition to the port, Tacoma's economy depends greatly on the health-care industry and on the U.S. military, which has three large facilities south of the city. Major Tacoma employers include:
Tacoma's eight neighborhoods are the foundation upon which the city was built. Many have a mix of residential and business districts that each offer their own unique parks, restaurants, boutique shops, and family activities. Notable areas include:
Tacoma Dome: Home to the city's major concerts and sporting events, the Tacoma Dome is one of the largest wood domed structures in the world. Most of the dome's seating is moveable, and seating configurations range from 5,000 to 23,000, so the building is able to attract a wide variety of events. The Tacoma Dome opened in 1983 and now welcomes more than one million people each year. The facility has hosted events such as the NCAA Final Four, the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and the 1990 Goodwill Games. It has also been home to professional soccer, football, basketball, and hockey teams.
Broadway Center: The downtown theater district is historic, walkable, and welcoming. The three theaters that make up the Broadway Center host touring Broadway musicals and other stage shows, along with the Tacoma City Ballet, the Tacoma Concert Band, the Tacoma Philharmonic, the Tacoma Opera, and the Tacoma Symphony. The addition of a light rail line in the area has helped make the theaters extremely accessible.
Point Defiance Park: This 700-acre waterfront park is one of the largest city parks in the United States. Each year, more than two million people visit the park to walk its natural forest, relax on its beaches, and enjoy its beautiful views. The park is also home to gardens, running trails, a lodge, a marina, and a restaurant.
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium: This midsize zoo and aquarium showcases an array of animals that include elephants, sharks, peacocks, and wolves. Zookeepers give regular talks about the animals and teach visitors about conservation. The zoo is more than 100 years old and provides views of Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains, and Puget Sound.
Pacific Lutheran University: This 4-year, nonprofit private school offers more than 50 degree programs and has a total enrollment of more than 3,500 students.
Tacoma Community College: More than 5,000 students take classes in more than 20 degree programs at this 2-year public school.
University of Puget Sound: This 4-year private university has a total enrollment of nearly 3,000 students. More than half of the bachelor's degrees awarded at the school are in liberal arts fields.
University of Washington-Tacoma: This 4-year state school offers degrees in accounting and finance, business and management, education, nursing, and liberal arts. The Tacoma campus has an enrollment of approximately 1,700 students.