Welcome to the Tri-Cities: Home of the fastest car, best cabernet, the most Ph.D.'s per capita, and the oldest complete human skeleton in the Northwest, if not the Western Hemisphere.

Hyperbole and superlatives aside, it all depends on who you ask for a ranking of the Tri-Cities. But asking will reveal that the community is highly rated on a wide variety of yardsticks.

For instance, Kennewick recently made the cut for American Cowboy magazine's top 20 list of best in West communities for boots-on livability.

That's good, but how many people know that the March-April 2009 issue of Flying Adventures magazine tagged the Tri-Cities as a top 10 romantic getaway spot?

And while we're talking airplanes, it was April 6, 1926, that a biplane carrying two satchels of mail hopped into the sky at Pasco's airport, bound for Elko, Nev. That weather-whipped flight marked the first official air-mail delivery done from anywhere this side of the Cascades in Washington to anywhere outside the state.

The Tri-Cities also made headlines last year with Sunset magazine's declaration that Bookwalter Winery & Bistro in Richland was its Winery Tasting Room of the Year.

That distinction came on the heels of Wine Spectator magazine pronouncing Columbia Crest's cabernet sauvignon the No. 1 wine in the world for 2009.

But it was perhaps the discovery of an ancient human skull and bones in 1996 in the shallows of the Columbia River in Kennewick that really thrust the Tri-Cities into the national spotlight.

Those remains of the 9,300-year-old "Kennewick Man" skeleton pitted scientists against Native Americans, who insisted the human remains should be respectfully returned to the Earth instead of poked by curious scientists. Since then, Kennewick Man has become a reclusive, yet renowned, representative of the Tri-Cities.

Then came the super-fast Ultimate Aero, the creation of West Richland supercar builder Jerod Shelby.

His high-end automobile screamed into headlines in 2007 by hitting 256 mph on a lonely section of a rural road in Benton County. That run set a Guinness Record as the world's fastest production car, eclipsing the previous record held by a Italian-built Bugatti Veyron.

Be it a fast car, ancient bones or world class wine, Jordan Youngs, director of marketing and public relations at the Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau, said it all helps promote the Tri-City area as having plenty of the right stuff.

"The more lists we are on the better. We love it," Youngs said.

And the list of those "best of" lists that the Tri-Cities has made is itself impressive. They include:

-- The Tri-Cities leads the nation in per capita Ph.D.'s, with 1,600 doctoral degrees among 7,000 scientists and engineers in the community, most of whom work for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.

-- Kennewick's 7-Eleven store was acclaimed the Slurpee capital of world, besting Winnipeg's Slurpee outlet in 2009 by amassing more sales and number of cups sold. The upset ended a nine-year reign by the Canadians.

-- The Tri-Cities made the top 10 best places to raise a family in 2010, by Kiplinger publications.

-- We also made the 10 best community list for gains in housing value, 2010, by CNNMoney.com.

-- The three cities were rated No. 1 in nation for housing in 2010, by SmartMoney.com.

-- In 2009, the Tri-Cities was ranked the No. 2 best city for employment opportunity in the U.S. by Manpower magazine.

-- For 2010, the online publication Garner Economics rated us No. 1 community for job growth.

-- The Tri-Cities was ranked No. 5 in the nation among "Best Performing Cities in 2010 where Jobs are Created and Sustained" by the Milken Institute think tank. That followed a No. 6 ranking the year before.

-- The ACCRA Cost of Living Index reported that the Tri-Cities had the lowest cost of living in the state for the second quarter 2010.

w Pinkmagazine.com rated the Tri-Cities the fastest rising residential market in the U.S., at 4.5 percent for the second quarter of 2009.

-- In 2006, CNNmoney.com rated Kennewick the best place to live.

-- We ranked No. 2 in the U.S. for over-the-year nonfarm employment increases in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Labor.

-- And the Census Bureau in 2010 rated the Tri-Cities the fastest growing metropolitan statistical area in Washington since 2000.

Boasting about economic prowess is one thing, but there's also notoriety.

-- Miss Tri-Cities, a 24-cylinder, one-of-a-kind hydroplane built in 1955 at the request of steel magnate Henry Kaiser, didn't perform well on the water. It was nicknamed the submarine because it sank at least five times. After retirement from the circuit, the historic hydro was displayed for years on a pedestal in Columbia Park as a reminder of the piston-powered days at Water Follies.

w Actress Sharon Tate, who was Miss Richland 1959, is better known by many as one of Charles Manson's victims in the grisly 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders in Los Angeles.

-- And the B Reactor at Hanford, the world's first large-scale nuclear reactor, was built during World War II and produced plutonium for the Fat Man atomic bomb that was dropped Aug. 9, 1945, on Nagasaki, Japan. The reactor now is a National Historic Landmark.

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