Three counties of incredibly diverse terrain and climate comprise the North Central Washington (NCW) region – encompassing the Cascade Mountains, agriculturally rich valleys of the Columbia River system, Lake Chelan as the 3rd deepest in the U.S., the highlands extending from the Colville Reservation to the Canadian border, and plateau reaching east to the Columbia Basin. Reviewed with this 2021-26 update are key conditions important to shape CEDS priorities.

Geography. The NCW region covers about 10,000 square miles, across three counties and half of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, representing nearly 1/7ththe land area of Washington state. The Colville ConfederatedTribes reservation spans southeast Okanogan County and the southern half of adjoining Ferry County.

Population. With an estimated 166,540 residents as of 2020, NCW population has increased by 10% from 2010-20.

Of the three counties, Okanogan is the largest geographically, covering 5,300 square miles as the largest county in the state. Chelan is the most populated county with just under half of NCW population. Douglas has experienced the most rapid population growth – up by 14% over the last decade matching the rate of population growth statewide.

North Central Washington is rural, with an average population density of 17 people per square mile and one metropolitan area – albeit with 22 incorporated cities. As of 2017, the 12 Bands forming the Colville Confederated Tribes enrollment constituted nearly 13% of the population of Okanogan County, the highest proportion of Native Americans in the District.1

Economy. Economic engines for the NCW region historically have been agriculture, forest management, fisheries, tourism, and local government, even as other sectors – driven by the region’s hydropower and concentrated availability of highspeed fiber broadband Internet hubs primarily in Chelan and Douglas Counties – are experiencing new growth (as with online retail sales and data centers). Economic resilience has been tested by wildfires, flooding and harsh winters, and most
recently by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For further information as to business and investment opportunities and economic development programs for the greater NCW region, contact Alyce Brown, NCWEDD Executive Director via email

For further information as to business and investment opportunities and economic development programs for the greater Okanogan region, contact Roni Holder-Diefenbach, Executive Director for the Economic Alliance of Okanogan County, via email