If there’s a shortage of construction cranes in the U.S., blame Washington State. Washington is experiencing an unparalleled building boom, fueled in part by its growing reputation as a global hub for software, hardware, big data, cloud computing, gaming and mobile apps, and by the influx of younger professionals who cherish the state’s breathtaking scenery and urban vibe.
It wasn’t too long ago that Washington doubled down on its prime industry – aerospace. The cancellation of key government programs in the 1970s caused Boeing to slash its workforce, leading two real estate developers to famously purchase a “Will the last person leaving Seattle… turn out the lights” billboard near the airport.
The bust turned out to be something of a godsend. As Washington clawed its way back out of the aerospace recession, it started to diversify. While Washington is still the global aerospace leader – producing 95 percent of all aircraft manufactured in North America – its economy has diversified to encompass seven other high-growth sectors: Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Life Science/Global Health, Forest Products, Clean Technology, Maritime, Military and Agriculture/Food Manufacturing.
Changing the World a Little at a Time
If your computing device does Windows, if you order your morning coffee using more than three words, were shocked to find out that Amazon is also a river in South America, or have flown on any passenger jet that begins and ends with the number ‘7’, chances are very good you’re already quite familiar with Washington’s legendary businesses, products and services.
The state’s unique culture of creativity and collaboration allows brash start-ups to open right across the street from the established offices of world-renowned companies such as Microsoft, Expedia, Facebook, Salesforce, Google, Starbucks, REI and Zillow. Ideas flow freely over lunch or a microbrew, not only between players in the same space, but across industries. The latest advances in aerospace design readily find their way into next-generation ships. ICT companies revolutionize the touchscreen cockpits of tomorrow, robotics automate time-consuming tasks with unparalleled precision, and big data opens the door to exciting new treatments and even cures in medicine.
This collaborative ecosystem led SpaceX to establish a new satellite design and production facility in the Washington, bringing aerospace, software and hardware engineers under a single roof to design a new generation of low-earth satellites to improve global Internet connectivity. Across town, Blue Origin is tapping the brightest minds in aerospace, technology and advanced manufacturing to build NASA’s newest rocket engine, the BE-4.
You’re in Good Company, Too!
Part of Washington’s secret sauce is the rugged pioneer spirit that is deeply engrained into the culture. Out-of-the-box thinking is more likely to get you early stage funding than a judgmental stare and a finger wag. This legendary entrepreneurial mindset, combined with vast intellectual capital and a collaborative environment, has drawn some of the most well-known and respected companies in the world to Washington. In recent years, eBay, Airbnb, Apple, Twitter, Snapchat and countless others have opened offices in the state, joining such local business legends as Amazon, Boeing, Costco, Expedia, Microsoft, REI and Starbucks.
Investment opportunities are equally strong. A who’s who of multinational firms have operations in Washington, drawn to the state by the highly-skilled workforce, robust supply chain, rock bottom energy rates, central location between major European and Asian markets and trade savvy culture. More than 800 multinational companies are located in Washington, including BAE Systems, Dassault Systemes, Mitsubishi, Philips Healthcare, REC Silicon, Safran, Sharp, Shell, Toray and Zodiac.
Washington is one of the few states in the U.S. that doesn’t have a personal or corporate income tax. It also ranks near the bottom when it comes to local and state taxes paid per $1,000 in personal income. Businesses in targeted high-growth sectors receive additional tax incentives and deferrals to spur growth and expansion.
A Gateway to the World
Washington has earned its reputation as an international gateway for travel and trade. The state is equidistant between Asia and European markets, offering convenient access to either continent via daily direct flights. Record air travel at Sea-Tac International spurred Delta Airlines into establishing it as an international gateway, joining other domestic and international carriers in extending global connectivity and convenience.
Washington is the third-largest exporting state in the United States and one in three jobs is trade related. In 2015, Washington companies exported $86.3 billion in products and an estimated $20 to $30 billion in services. The state is #1 in aircraft exports as well as the #1 supplier of red raspberries, hops, apples, sweet cherries, pears and concord grapes. More than 300 crops grow in the fertile soil of Washington’s agricultural regions.
For exporters who rely on shipping, Washington offers 11 deep water ports, some a day or two closer to key Asian markets than other west coast ports. The Northwest Seaport Alliance, which is the combined ports of Seattle and Tacoma, is the fourth largest port in the nation.
An Inspirational Place to Be
It’s something of an urban myth that Washington is “rain central.” The western part of the state enjoys a temperate marine climate, meaning that winters are mild and summers aren’t unbearable. Air conditioners and snow shovels are optional. In fact, Seattle actually ranks 44th among major cities when it comes to annual rainfall, getting less rain than Boston, New York, Houston and Miami. If you want to work on your tan, you can always head to Eastern Washington where 300 days of sunshine is the norm, not the exception.
It’s hard not to be inspired by the continually changing scenic landscapes that appear at every turn of the road. The state has seven distinct physiographic regions, from the rugged Pacific Coastline and soaring peaks of the Olympic and Cascade Mountains to the fertile fields of the Columbia Basin, offering a diverse range of recreational and cultural experiences. In the urban centers, there’s something for nearly everyone, including vibrant arts and music scenes, museums, symphonies and ballet, and an endless world-class dining experiences. And if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, you can hop a ferry to one of the San Juan Islands, visit quaint towns off the beaten path, or enjoy a long weekend “overseas” – Canada is a couple hours to the north.
Washington is truly a study in contrasts. Featuring an educated, highly productive workforce, a smart, multi-faceted sector-driven strategy, a critical mass of legendary companies and a healthy startup community, Washington has emerged from the Great Recession in a high growth mode, benefitting from an ecosystem that is as resilient as it is collaborative, a testament to the pioneer spirit that continues to drive the state’s bustling economy. For more information on Washington State and its rich history of innovation and invention, visit www.choosewashingtonstate.com.
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