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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

October 13, 2009 at 9:55 AM

Whether they want it or not, economy will be Job One for Seattle mayoral candidates

Top of the News: Seattle mayoral candidates Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn are answering readers’ questions this week. Mallahan did so Monday and McGinn will be on the hot seat today (go here to submit a question).

Both need to focus in more about how they see the mayor’s role as Seattle weathers the Great Recession and the reset that will follow. The loss of Washington Mutual, the embarrassing failure of the Starwood project and potentially record vacancy rates downtown signal serious discontinuity. The next mayor will not be able to cruise along atop a boom.

The economic issues go beyond the tunnel or so-called head tax. What strategy does the next mayor have to lure more international business and investment? What other retention efforts should be made? What part should Seattle play in regional economic development? Does City Hall have more to do to ensure the bio-medical sectors stay vibrant? Is Seattle doing enough to build forward-leaning infrastructure that will enhance productivity. How about getting enough stimulus money and leveraging it for same.

Of course such issues as public safety and livability are holistic with a strong economy. But this job won’t just be filling potholes and tightening belts, not with the disruption we’re facing. As the Hollywood trailer would say, “This time, it’s for keeps…”

Geek Alert: You can track the recession in the U.S. and other OECD countries in a helpful site put together by the St. Louis Fed.

The data are telling. For example, industrial production is off 8.2 percent in the U.S. compared to the pre-bust peak. But it’s down nearly 16 percent in Germany and 18 percent in Japan (which may also indicate manufacturing’s greater share of those economies). On the other hand, unemployment and real income are down much more in America.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Dig a hole, fill it

A training drill at boot camp?

No, downtown dreams dashed

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