KENNEWICK, Wash. — The Tri-Cities once again ranked near the top of a list of “fastest growing” communities.

And Carl Adrian, president of the Tri-City Development Council, told the Herald that ranking high on the list of rapidly growing cities helps keep the Tri-Cities on the minds of potential investors.

“It puts us out front, and anytime you get your name out there on a national basis it’s positive,” Adrian said. “Companies want to invest someplace where they believe that investment is going to appreciate. That’s certainly more likely in communities that are growing.”

The new “Metro Magnets Index” unveiled by Pitney Bowes Software on Tuesday listed the Kennewick-Pasco-Richland metro area as the sixth-fastest growing in the nation, but also projects growth in the Tri-Cities to slow in coming years.

Pitney Bowes is perhaps best known as a manufacturer of office equipment such as postage machines, but also operates the software company as a subsidiary providing data analysis.

Data collected for the index forecasts population in the Tri-Cities will grow by 7.4 percent from 2012 to 2017 and add nearly 6,800 new households.

That breaks down to an average annual growth rate of 1.5 percent in the next several years -- about half the 3.1 percent growth rate the area saw between 2000 and 2010, a news release said.

The projections are based on U.S. Census data from the national to the county levels, and the index is intended as a tool to aid in marketing, understanding risk and strategic planning, Pitney Bowes officials said.

“Projected household growth is a critical indicator for the economic prospects of a specific geographic area, and this data can help real estate, retail and a range of other businesses, plan their growth strategy scientifically,” John O’Hara, the company’s president, said in a statement. “It is no longer acceptable to make strategic business decisions on gut feel alone. Given the plethora of data, and the advanced tools for analyzing it, business leaders can stay ahead of real estate trends for planning.”

Jacksonville, N.C., tops the list of fastest-growing metro areas with projected growth of 9.9 percent, or a 2 percent annual average, from 2012 to 2017.

The other top cities are Palm Coast, Fla.; Hanford-Corcoran, Calif.; Greeley, Colo.; and State College, Pa.

The Kennewick-Pasco-Richland metro area is tied with Provo-Orem, Utah, and Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Texas, for sixth place on the list, with each area expected to grow by 7.4 percent over the five-year period.

About 98 percent of the 384 U.S. metro areas analyzed for the index are expected to see a growth in the number of households, but the growth rate is expected to slow compared to the last decade in most of them, the news release said.