Seattle should be the crossroads between the U.S. and Asia and encourage more Asian companies to establish U.S. headquarters in the area, according to Microsoft’s top lawyer.
Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and executive vice president, presented these challenges in a keynote speech Wednesday night at the Regional Leadership Conference hosted by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce at the Suncadia resort in Cle Elum.
“We need to raise our ambition as a region,” Smith said in an interview ahead of his speech.
One focus should be increasing tourism and international meetings, Smith said. He said Vancouver, B.C., last year hosted 49 major conventions while Seattle only hosted 16.
Another big opportunity is persuading the next generation of Asian companies to locate their U.S. headquarters in this region.
As an example of the long-term benefits, Smith pointed to Microsoft rival Nintendo, which established its U.S. headquarters in Redmond in 1982 and later became majority owner of the Seattle Mariners.
“Who would have thought … that decision 15 years later would have been what kept Major League baseball in Seattle?” Smith said. “I think it just goes to show the benefits that are created when you attract other companies.”
Smith also reiterated his calls for Washington to expand higher-education opportunities and expose more high school students to computer science.
Washington should become the first state in the country to offer advanced-placement computer science in all of its high schools, he said.
To help expand higher education capacity, the state may be able to attract an overseas university to the region, Smith said.
“Right now there is a wave of American universities building campuses across Asia and in China,” he said. “One region in the U.S. will be the first region to attract international universities to its shores and why not us?”