Seattle: the stats
Located in Washington on the Pacific Northwest coast, Seattle has a reputation for getting a lot of rainfall, and indeed has a significant rainy season in winter and early spring. However, these give way to almost drought-like conditions in summer and autumns, with temperatures averaging in the mid-upper 70s. Seattle provides a fertile atmosphere for innovation and the arts for those who love the outdoors but also want access to a thriving urban setting. The city’s politics are largely liberal and many residents are active in initiatives that support social justice and respect for the environment
On the downside, traffic can be difficult for commuters in and around Seattle, something the city hopes to offset with the creation of a light rail system that will connect Sea-Tac International Airport with downtown Seattle as well as the areas north of the city.
Aerospace, shipping and manufacturing
In addition to being called The Emerald City thanks to the rain, Seattle is also nicknamed Jet City in honor of one of its biggest employers, the Boeing company. Boeing is a multi-national aerospace company which was first founded in Seattle and is still in operation there – however, its headquarters is currently located in Chicago, IL.
The Port of Seattle makes the city a shipping hub and allows area manufacturers to easily import supplies and export their goods. The port employs around 2,150 people and has been in operation since 1911.
The city is home to the headquarters of a number of large and high-profile businesses, including Starbuck’s Coffee, Amazon, Microsoft (in the suburb of Redmond), Nordstrom, Weyerhaeuser, Alaska Airlines, Costco Wholesale, Zillow and the Expedia online travel company.
Living in Seattle
The city is consistently rated high in desirability as a place to live and work. Seattle has a crime rate of 7.1%, which is below average for similarly-sized metro areas in the country, like Houston, TX or Chicago, IL.
However, it is the city’s proximity to nature, the Puget Sound (a geographically iconic inlet of the Pacific Ocean) and mountain views that compel visitors to make Seattle their home.
Beautiful parks, hiking trails and green spaces are always close at hand. While there is plenty of nightlife and fine dining, many residents favor spending time on their laptops in coffee shops or enjoying a craft beer at a low-key pub. There are also several wineries located just outside the metro area.
The plethora of technology companies draw many to migrate to the city, but the cost of living makes Seattle one of the more expensive cities in the US to call home. Bedroom communities like Shoreline, Edmonds and Lynnwood to the north and Renton, Kent and Auburn to the south offer more affordable alternatives for those who wish to retain access to Seattle for work or play.
Biotech and medical sectors
In addition to a thriving technology sector, Seattle also offers business opportunities in healthcare and biotech. Many patients battling diseases such as cancer seek out innovative and alternative health services in Seattle for cures and symptom relief. Seattle’s reputation for healthcare has grown substantially in the past couple decades.
The most significant current event affecting the business climate in Seattle is a recent decision to raise taxes to combat the city’s homelessness problem. The city of Seattle has the third highest homelessness rate in the nation, and it is looking to its most wealthy and successful companies to help with addressing this issue.
Homelessness ‘head tax’ controversial with business
Companies like Amazon, Starbuck’s and Expedia have been extremely vocal in expressing their opposition to the tax, which is expected to raise $48mn per year toward the cause. Amazon is even looking for another city to be the site of a second corporate headquarters instead of expanding in Seattle. This could be a huge missed opportunity since the new Amazon facility will generate around 50,000 jobs for the city that it will eventually call home. The Amazon corporation is currently worth around $780bn.
In 2015, King County and the city of Seattle declared a state of emergency due to the homelessness problem. However, the issue has become steadily worse due to skyrocketing real estate costs. The city reasons that the success of the larger companies in the area served as a catalyst for this escalation in cost of living, which has led to the displacement of many who can no longer afford to buy or rent in the area.
Resolving Seattle’s ‘state of emergency’
Under the new plan, companies that generate over $20mn annually will pay around $275 per job position each year. Around 600 Seattle companies currently qualify. Critics of this measure say it sends a mixed message to established companies and entrepreneurs, arguing it can be seen as a sort of punishment for success. However, proponents of the tax view it as doing the right thing for the city’s homelessness crisis. The measure will begin on 1 January 2019 and will expire within five years. Two-thirds of this money collected will be spent on creating affordable housing for the homeless, and the rest on rental subsidies, shelter beds and services.
While there are initiatives underway to have the tax repealed, if it stands it may cause some entrepreneurs to think twice about building or expanding in Seattle. However, the trade-off of higher costs is establishing yourself in one of the most unique and beautiful cities in the nation, as well as a solid and visible CSR contribution.