Joyce's Voice...Surprise! Good economic news popping
up in Seattle region.
This is such good news, thought I should pass it on...In a tough 2011, the
Puget Sound region continues to make gains that bode well for several
industries in the future.
The most dramatic developments involve Boeing. Emirates, the airline
headquartered in Dubai, placed an order for 50 777s built in Everett, with an
option to purchase 20 more. The entire deal would be worth $26 billion,
although such large transactions usually involve discounts.
Days later, Indonesia's Lion Air said it would buy 230 narrowbody 737s for a
list price of $21.7 billion. At least for now, these jets are made in Renton
and state leaders are working hard to persuade Boeing to build its next-generation
737 in Washington state.
The Amazon.com campus in South Lake Union
continues to rise, with the company hiring while most large corporations are
just sitting on their cash. CEO Jeff Bezos is willing to incur the fury of
short-term Wall Street to build for the long-run.
Despite grim barriers for consumer spending, Nordstrom increased its
third-quarter profit by 7 percent, thanks in part to affluent shoppers. It used
to be that department stores were hammered during downturns and slow times, but
Costco, which never slowed during the Great Recession, is doing beautifully
and is fresh off an election victory to privatize state liquor sales. Comeback
star Starbucks is basking in deserved adulation (Howard Schultz is Fortune
magazine's Businessperson of the Year). It sports plenty of cash to invest,
such as in expanding its Kent roasting and packaging plant.
Meanwhile, the worst fears for Seattle real estate during the recession
haven't materialized. While single-family residential struggles in many parts
of the metro area, apartment construction is booming, underscored by the recent
announcement by a California developer that it intends to break ground on a
31-story First Hill project in the spring of 2012.
The Urban Land Institute's influential Emerging Trends in Real Estate report
ranked Seattle sixth nationwide among 51 markets for investment in multifamily
and commercial projects next year.
Construction jobs, hard hit by the crash, gained an additional cushion by
major public infrastructure that received the final go-ahead in recent months:
The deep-bore tunnel in downtown Seattle and the light-rail route through
If common themes emerge, they include that the metropolitan area continues
to leverage its corporate, industry cluster and trade touchstones. It keeps
attracting talent. And for all the successful reinvention and diversification
of recent decades, Boeing still leaves a giant footprint.
Even so, innovation powers Seattle like never before. We ranked No. 5 this
year in the Americas and 25th globally in the Innovation Cities Index compiled
by the Australian company 2ThinkNow. The survey ranks 331 cities based on a
variety of economic and competitiveness measures.
The metro areas ranked ahead â€” Boston, the Bay Area, New York and Toronto â€”
are much more populous. Seattle is among this elite: "A Nexus city, is a
top innovation destination for innovation in multiple sectors of the urban
economy," the report reads. "Nexus cities have a high probability
from a cluster of preconditions to create innovation not just in science, but
in areas such as product, process, business, service, policy and other types of
Also, Boeing and Microsoft ranked among the world's 100 most innovative
companies in a new Thomson Reuters analysis.
I'm not trying to feed you Astro-green shoots. These strengths are present
even as statewide unemployment remains at 9 percent, thousands are hurting and
continued government cutbacks drag on recovery.
Digging out of the unemployment crisis could take years. It's a tale of two
economies, two trajectories, but in the same place.
This dual reality is reflected in the Puget Sound Business Barometer, a
survey of 1,700 businesses by the Greater Seattle Chamber and its
It indicated that several sectors expect to hire: Energy, aerospace and
manufacturing, life sciences, information technology and interactive media.
Still, government, education and transportation are likely to cut jobs.
Small-business owners are the most likely to hire (but, I would add, many also
face trouble getting loans).
The report indicates that many companies are stabilizing after the downturn
and even growing. The businesses reporting layoffs fell 4 percent compared with
2010. Yet, "employers' perceptions of the overall economy are weak. Of the
sectors expecting growth, only some say they will hire. Many others expect
higher sales or new contracts but won't hire proportionately."
The Bellevue Chamber of Commerce survey of 700 businesses found that 58
percent expect to add workers in 2012 and 34 percent plan to keep employment at
Plenty can still go sideways, from Europe's troubles to Boeing moving the
next generation 737 production elsewhere. But the year is turning out better
for Seattle than many other American metropolitan areas.