The GSBA Blog

Intentional Economic Development

| Dec 18, 2015

“A good economy and good development do not happen by accident.”

Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci kicked off GSBA’s economic forecast panel stating the importance of intentional action by government to spur and foster the kind of economy that benefits everyone. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray continued by observing that the Puget Sound region is experiencing its greatest growth since the gold rush and that “This is an incredible moment in our history, so how do we do it right? We must work with businesses to build on those successes!”

Gladys Gillis, panel facilitator and Principal of Starline Luxury Coaches, asked about the spike of both high-wage and low-wage jobs across the country, at the expense of critical middle-wage jobs. The new Seaport Alliance between Seattle and Tacoma is now the third largest container port in North America, and was given as an example of the kind of generator for those middle-wage jobs. Gillis asked the mayors what role they saw for small business in the economic development of their cities. 

Balducci expects the number of Bellevue small businesses to double by 2019, while Murray stated that over 63,000 new jobs were created in Seattle in the last five years. This is largely driven by the tech sector, with an estimated seven jobs created for every new tech job generated. Working together for regional solutions was seen as a necessity, whether for transit, homelessness or affordability. The recent Restaurant Success Initiative between Seattle, King County and Washington State was mentioned as a model to replicate. However, Murray did concede that the rapid development of the Pike/Pine corridor on Capitol Hill did not take the neighborhood small businesses into account and that the City needed to do more to hear their concerns.

Attracting international investors is both a priority and an area where our region has lagged behind as cities like San Francisco have offices abroad devoted to attracting direct foreign investment. Nonetheless, these international investors – particularly from China – have been active in our area, notably with the groundbreaking Global Innovation Exchange partnership in Bellevue between the University of Washington, Tsinghua University and Microsoft. Murray and Balducci pointed to this as a model of success for the region – increasing outside investment, building on our strengths and expanding opportunities for the whole region.

A functioning transportation network was named by both mayors as the top priority for Puget Sound. Neither city has it easy though, with Bellevue (incorporated only in 1953) as a 20th century car-centric city with superblocks and Seattle as dense urban center platted out in the 19th century with aging infrastructure that cannot always accommodate the sheer volume of personal vehicles on its roads. Mayor Murray touted the recent passage of the GSBA-endorsed Move Seattle levy, which will provide a desperately needed investment in Seattle’s transportation network. 

Businesses need people to be able to live near where they work to prevent gridlock, so concerns of affordability are of paramount importance as well. Murry touted Seattle’s leadership on what he calls “the most aggressive housing affordability program in the United States.” Balducci was proud of Bellevue’s leading on environmental innovations, particularly related to water quality and shoreline stewardship.

Facilitator Kevin Baldwin of PwC concluded by mentioning that in 1800 only two percent of the world’s population lived in cities, but now over half do. As presented in a study for APEC, this sets the stage for the importance of leadership of our mayors as the pressing issues we face are increasingly at the city level rather than state or federal.


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