Seattle cannot afford to get complacent about its economic success. Unemployment is dropping to pre-Great Recession rates. It would be easy to gawk at the city of Detroit’s bankruptcy, as detailed in an Associated Press news story. It’s the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. But it’s a cautionary tale of squandered success, and one that political candidates and elected officials should reflect on.
Amazon.com’s cloud services and 787s are to Seattle today what the Fords and Cadillacs were to Detroit in the 1950s. Like South Lake Union, Detroit boomed along with the auto industry. Back then, Detroit was Motor City and Seattle was Jet City.
Putting aside the differences in making planes and automobiles, the difference was that Seattle was able to reinvent itself by attracting new businesses like Microsoft, which drove growth through the 1990s, bolstered by Starbucks and Costco. Now Amazon.com is driving a boom. What companies will drive the next round of economic growth? Is government doing enough to foster its incubation?
Check out this interactive graphic on the bankruptcy from the Associated Press.
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Jon Talton wrote in a Sound Economy blog post from the news side that the real competition is not Seattle vs. Bellevue, but a competition against Shanghai and Amsterdam for talent. And, I would argue, to grow that talent at home. The state Legislature’s investments to keep higher education tuition stable was a good start. Congress helped by reversing a doubling of student-loan interest rates.