2013 was a banner year for Seattle in many ways. Although “Cloud City” has been rated tops in all sorts of surveys (some quite suspect), one recent ranking stands out.
Washington was named the most innovative state in the U.S. In mid-December 2013, a Bloomberg report ranked the Evergreen State just ahead of California and Massachusetts, based on metrics that are more robust than usual for these kinds of broad-brush surveys. Bloomberg took into account things like: workers doing STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Mathematics); patents issued; and three-year change in productivity.
Since most of WA’s tech and research activity is in the Seattle area, this is great news for our region. While an editor at the OECD, I worked on reports that analyzed innovation clusters. The premise is that for creativity and ingenuity to thrive, it helps to have well-educated workers, research institutions and companies living and working close to each other. This can ignite a fusion-like reaction that releases all sorts of dynamic energy, attracting talent the world over and in turn more innovation, be it drones to deliver Amazon packages or new ways to fight cancer.
Some of the Benefits
An unemployment rate of 5.4% in King County (October 2013). This past fall, King County (the Seattle area, Bellevue and environs) bested the national unemployment rate of 7% by a wide margin. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, all major industry sectors in King County experienced year-over-year growth in employment and wages. Not surprisingly, the information sector (including software publishing), was the highest-paying sector in King County, with an average weekly wage of $2,328. Or $9,312 per month.
A boom in commercial construction. From the new office tower proposed for downtown Bellevue to Amazon.com’s new “bubble” building in the Denny Triangle (could be done by 2016), the area’s skyline continues to morph. Across the street from where I’m sitting now (2nd & Marion), Seattle’s tallest skyscraper has been proposed, one floor higher than the Columbia tower. And the new proposed buildings for South Lake Union are too many to mention here.
Big-name Seattle stocks outperformed in 2013 (on average). Ten of the Seattle area’s most prominent publicly traded companies saw their stocks rise an average of 39% last year, with airline-related companies flying highest.
Two about-Seattle books by local authors (both CA transplants) captured the nation’s imagination.
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (April 2013), a zany take on the techie families whose compulsive/obsessive tendencies turn Seattle-area playgrounds into standardized-testing sites.
- Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown (June 2013), about the go-get-‘em bodies and spirits of the University of WA crew team, champions of the 1936 Olympics (presided over by Hitler).
It’s a good thing that WA State produced a bumper crop of wine grapes in 2013. To be specific, an estimated 218,000 tons of wine grapes (+16%) were crushed this past fall, and growers expect a fabulous vintage year. So cheers to us all and Happy New Year!
What do you think? Send us a note on what else made Seattle a standout in 2013. A new restaurant? Big Bertha?