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Jon Talton

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

May 22, 2014 at 9:53 AM

What’s driving Seattle’s growth

Let me pivot off Gene Balk’s story in today’s Times about Seattle being the fastest-growing major city in America.

The economy is certainly a major driver. The biggest element is continued increase of jobs at Amazon.com. But the city also benefits from being a start-up star and having an abundance of technology and life sciences companies. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the world’s largest nonprofit and is attracting an ecosystem of world health outfits.

But something else is at work, too: the “back to the city movement,” where young talent and empty-nest baby boomers are choosing to live in cities instead of suburbs. Here, Seattle has an impressive set of assets in a compact, livable city. Sprawling places such as Phoenix are not benefiting (Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, being the planet’s energy capital and a major corporate center respectively, are the exceptions).

Americans are poorer since the Great Recession. Jobs are more scarce. The old mobility hasn’t returned.

Population growth alone is a double-edged sword, bringing costs along with benefits. Seattle still hasn’t found a way to sustainably fund the transit that will be necessary for its continued growth and mobility. It takes the port and maritime industries for granted at its peril. Housing costs keep rising.

Critically, Seattle seems to continue attracting talent. I suspect few people retire here. Except for me, I doubt few people move here for the weather. And adding 18,000 a year is a healthy number. Sun Belt cities that were adding 50,000 or more people during the pre-recession years gained little in a broader economic or civic sense.

Historically, this is a boom-and-bust place. So, as I have written before, watch Amazon’s stock price.

And Don’t Miss: Inequality’s looming disaster | David Cay Johnston

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Jim: No more moon shots

We’d rather be counting beans

And moon the unions

 

 

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