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Kent Valley

Jockey Javier Matthias on McDove. McDove and Distinguishable are the Green Bay Packers of horses, being owned collectively by owners of the Emerald Racing Club.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Distinguishable, a 4-year-old fillie, sucked a carrot from Vince Bruun's hand. 

"I find she's got a bottomless pit of a stomach," Bruun said. Which brings us to the heart of the problem: Owning a racehorse is really expensive. And the people interested in spending a fortune on racehorses are disappearing. "We're losing the whales in our industry," Bruun told me. 

Emerald Downs has a plan to save the whales.


Gwen Allen Carston in her store, C & G Hair & Beauty Supply, which has become a center of black life in Kent.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Gwen Allen Carston is the owner of a beauty supply shop in Kent. She is also a founder of the Kent Black Action Commission. Region of Boom reporter Carolyn Adolph visited her to ask how life in Kent is evolving as people from so many backgrounds move in. 

Auburn's population was almost 1/3 Japanese American, before World War II and the internment. After the war, many families did not come back. This family photograph is on display at the White River Valley Museum, in Auburn.
White River Valley Museum

Auburn, Washington, used to be an agricultural community surrounded by farmland. Many of those farms were owned by Japanese-Americans. But the internment in WWII changed everything.


Ronnie Schmidt once volunteered for Food Lifeline. Then he saw a posting for a job driving a truck for the organization. 'You see a lot of seniors that need this help. So it's nice doing it.'
KUOW Photo/Posey Gruener

Most of the poor people in our region live in the suburbs. That can create problems for organizations like Food Lifeline, a nonprofit food distribution center. One solution for getting perishable food to needy people spread over a large area? A truck.

The Birchcrest, a motel in South King County. The motel serves as a low-rent solution for people who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Emily Fox speaks with Brookings researcher Elizabeth Kneebone, co-author with Alan Berube of "Confronting Suburban Poverty in America."

Kneebone and Berube chose five locations to study for their book. South King County was one of them, Kneebone told Fox, because it demonstrates so many national trends. 

Cross this log bridge to reach an island in Auburn where some homeless people live.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

There's an island in the middle of the White River in Auburn.

To get there, you cross a log bridge and follow two separate trails. That’s when you see them: Semi-permanent shelters people have built. One looks like a big family tent but made of logs and sticks all woven together — whatever people could find.


Jeffrey Basket is fighting the foreclosure of his home in Auburn. He is among the people whose wages never fully recovered from the Great Recession.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

South King County has long been a destination for working people seeking home ownership.

But prices have been rising and not people's ability to pay.

Tim Thomas, University of Washington

South King County has long been a place where people with modest incomes could find a home.

Blue Origin employees Devin Vezetinski (C) and Dan Cody (R) chat up Edward Matyasi (L), who just interviewed with the company. Blue Origin likes this brewery & taproom so much, it sent a postcard from Airways Brewing Company up in one of its rockets.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Lots of industrial jobs are coming to the Kent Valley, south of Seattle, businesses that make everything from ice sculptures to airplane parts. But workers today don’t want to carry a metal lunch pail to work everyday. They want to go out.

Restaurants and pubs are trying to capitalize on those hungry workers with money in their pockets. But it’s tricky in Kent, because the modern city was laid out to keep industry and restaurants far away from each other.


Osman Mohamed, of Somalia, and his three daughters, ages 2, 4 and 5. Osmon hoped to find paradise in Seattle, but in his first year, his family witnessed a shooting and he was hit by a car.
KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

The Kent Valley — Renton, Kent and Auburn —  is best known as the biggest manufacturing center in the state. But it’s also a hub for the region’s immigrant community. 

Rockie Ward  may have a job for you to work at Omax. They make machines that cut metal using water.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

People call it the “silver tsunami,” for those currently in senior positions in Kent's industrial valley. A massive wave of older, experienced workers is considering retirement at around the same time.


Luke Muñoz overcame the obstacles keeping him from leveling up his skills thanks in part to the generosity of an uncle who gave him a quiet room to study away from his noisy siblings.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Pat Pritchard stood before a group of students at Green River College in Kent. He told his students that he doesn’t train them to be grunts, because what we need from workers is changing. 


KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

The Kent Valley keeps its surprises hidden away and out of sight. Nothing is more well-hidden than the Federal Reserve Bank’s giant vault of money, set far off an isolated corner in an industrial park in Renton.

Joseph Roth in the Puget Sound region's new IKEA. The store now contains model homes to showcase compact living. The smallest is 860 square feet.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

IKEA has been in the Seattle area since the 1990s, but until recently its store here has been an anomaly.

Justin Cox and Matt Andersen work at Creative Ice in Kent, Washington.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

When you think about the Puget Sound Region’s boom, where do you think it’s coming from? Many people would answer Amazon, in South Lake Union. Or the Eastside, with its band of glittering tech companies. 

Few people would think of the Kent Valley, but there too a boom is underway.

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