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Jon Talton

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

September 27, 2010 at 10:31 AM

South Lake Union as powerful economic engine

If you missed it, check out this article (with map) by the Seattle Times’ Eric Pryne on the transformation of South Lake Union. For all the controversy among locals, the combination of Paul Allen’s Vulcan Real Estate, Amazon.com and the biotech sector show off some of the key strengths of the Seattle economy.

A wealthy steward who could invest anywhere — and get plenty of incentives from cities and suburbs anywhere — but chooses to do so in the heart of his hometown. A major corporate headquarters that could locate out on a freeway but chooses the dense, creative landscape of the city. The diverse bio cluster that also thrives in the city. Other companies including Group Health add to the high-wage jobs there. It’s a powerful combination, and one that most cities don’t have.

I remember getting a call from a journalist in Phoenix because Allen had bought a defunct building in a suburb; would Allen “do there what he had done in Seattle?” I doubted it because the Phoenix area lacks the economic assets to fill a South Lake Union-like development. It has an Amazon warehouse, to be sure. But it lacks the talent, the companies and the education level to operate at Seattle’s level, even though it is a larger city and metro.

I know: Incoming! The anti-Allen comments will be on their way. I don’t get it. What I do get is that Seattle had better focus on keeping and growing its local companies, as well as starting new ones, so it doesn’t falter. But the assets it brought to the Great Recession and Great Disruption leave it in a stronger position than most cities.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Thursday’s child will be

Second quarter GDP

Don’t get your hopes up

Comments | More in Amazon.com, Biotech, Downtown and urban issues

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