Why Seattle is a Future-Ready Economy

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of hosting a roundtable discussion with public and private sector leaders, technologists and local media representatives in Seattle. The robust discussion, which included Microsoft as well as a representative from Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s office, was centered on Seattle being well-positioned as a Future-Ready Economy.

 Snippet of Infographic titled: What Makes Seattle Future Ready

On April 4, we announced 50 cities around the world that are the most “future ready” to meet tomorrow’s business and economic challenges. Seattle scored high, ranking No. 13 on the list. The cities evaluated as part of the Future-Ready Economies Model were selected using a combination of data reflecting gross metropolitan product and growth rate. Dell then worked closely with economic data forecasting and analytics firm IHS to develop the model and scored cities based on their growth rate over the last five years.  IHS looked at three dimensions, in all of which Seattle scored well:

  • Human capital: A Future-Ready Economy has people equipped with the right skills to drive meaningful social and economic change.
  • Infrastructure: A Future-Ready Economy has the infrastructure necessary to support the people, businesses and technology that enable progress over time.
  • Commerce: A Future-Ready Economy provides sustained opportunities for businesses to accelerate innovation, growth and profitability.

Roundtable participants couldn’t say enough good things about Seattle. From the city’s geography, which is surrounded by beautiful mountains, the Pacific Ocean and bustling ports, to its large, diverse and well-educated international population, it ultimately comes down to – and perhaps Kevin McCuistion, director of U.S. partner marketing for Cloud & Enterprise, Microsoft – said it best, “Can I do what I need to do here?” For participants, the answer was a resounding “yes!”

Of course, technology also plays a large role in attracting a diverse workforce to Seattle.

“Companies like Amazon, Microsoft and others have become part of the fabric of the community, and these anchor tenants then spawn and help attract other businesses. They are all part of the flywheel,” explained Rebecca Lovell, director of Entrepreneurship and Industry, City of Seattle. “In Seattle, tech is really a horizontal industry, not a vertical one. Sixty-seven percent of the jobs in IT are outside of the big tech companies. It is the backbone of nearly every successful enterprise and provides jobs at many different levels.”

Participants also discussed millennials, what they want from their careers, how they are changing today’s workplace and how they interact with technology. Dan Yurcovic, senior operations engineer with Slalom Consulting, said, “Their vision of work-life balance is very different. They are willing to work hard and be available at all hours, but you have to make it work for them. It’s not about work-life balance but work-life integration.”

“Seattle’s new businesses are growing out of traditional organizations and the notion of the shared economy with companies such as Zillow or Uber,” noted my colleague RJ Koppert, outside regional sales director at Dell.

Lovell echoed that thought, noting, “Seattle is also seeing a big spike in certain non-traditional industries such as music because these people can pursue their art while making a living on their own terms via companies like Uber or Airbnb. In this way, everyone is an entrepreneur.”

To meet the needs of its increasingly urban-based workforce, Seattle has many ride-sharing programs such as Car2Go and a new BMW program (which recently moved from San Francisco when a lack of parking spaces doomed it there). In Seattle, more and more people are giving up their cars because there is reliable public transportation and other good options for getting around. Plus, many employers – like Microsoft and Slalom Consulting – will cover employee transportation expenses because it’s an easy perk to provide and it cuts down on the company’s liability and need to provide physical space for parking.

“This works in Seattle because the people working at Amazon and places like that don’t see cars – or even home ownership – as a status symbol,” said Sam Machkovech, a culture reporter with Ars Technica.

The conversation then turned to the service industry and how to ensure that the disenfranchised aren’t left behind. Seattle has many programs in place that will help empower workers with the skills they need to acquire a job. All attendees agreed that public-private partnerships are key to continuing growth and good corporate citizenship is important, but not just to build brand loyalty. All companies need to participate to truly create community. 

John Powers, CEO, GCSIT Solutions, perhaps summed it up best when asked what it means to be a Future-Ready Economy:

“Creating predictability out of chaos.”

Well said, John.

Our objective in commissioning the Future-Ready Economies Model is to assist cities, businesses and people in creating policies and strategies that will enable their region to prosper and achieve strong economic health. You can visit here to learn more about Dell’s Future-Ready Economies model and to read more about the world’s future-ready cities.

About the Author: John Dietrich