Seattle ranks No. 6 among the 25 most elite technology hubs in America. Here's why.
Lists, I get lists. As newsrooms have cut 40 percent of their journalists since 2007, public relations people now outnumber us by about 5 to 1 — and the story pitches are unending. Most of the lists that come over the transom are clickbait with lazy and even misleading methodology. A few are gold standards, and some others are rigorous and command attention.
So here comes Tech Cities 1.0, a new report from Cushman & Wakefield, the giant commercial real-estate services outfit. It attempts a deep dive into what makes a real technopolis (my term), as these metros have outperformed others during the recovery. This is also influential, because real-estate investors and site selectors pay attention to analyses such as this.
Seattle has an overall grade of No. 6 nationally, among the top 25.
At the top, not surprisingly, are San Jose and San Francisco. They are followed by Washington, D.C., Boston and Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill. Portland ranks No. 14.
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Every industry is driven by technology today. But what makes a true tech city, or “tech stew” as the C&W authors put it? The report identifies:
- Leading institutions of higher learning.
- Venture capital.
- An ample supply of tech workers.
- Knowledge workers in support services.
- A high level of educated people.
- A high concentration of “growth engines” that support entrepreneurship and startups.
“Today’s tech cities are what they are because of a ‘stew’ made up of institutions of higher learning, investment funding, a well-qualified workforce, and entrepreneurship,” the report reads. “They have outperformed the U.S. as a whole in terms of job growth, income growth, net absorption of office space, and rent growth over the past seven years.”
But property investors weigh these assets in particular ways. For example, “from a commercial real estate perspective, the interesting companies are those with a high-growth profile that has extended over several years,” the report says. “These are the companies that have the potential to become important contributors to local economies and to become mainstays of the local commercial real estate environment.”
Robert Sammons, a co-author and regional director of Northwest U.S. research at Cushman & Wakefield, said Seattle is “certainly one of the biggest, if not the biggest competitor to Silicon Valley and San Francisco. Seattle is an interesting case because it was driven by Microsoft early on, which endures, and now Amazon is huge in the downtown area and it continues to be significant.”
The tech ecosystem has expanded even further as Bay Area firms have planted high-end offices here. For example, my colleague Rachel Lerman just reported on Airbnb leasing enough space to bring its downtown Seattle workforce from 50 to 300. Last year, Facebook doubled its footprint in South Lake Union with room for 2,000 workers.
Our happy dance has to be thrown slightly off beat by the threat of a tech-stock meltdown. The national and international situation is highly uncertain. And Boeing, certainly a tech company in its own right, continues to move jobs out of the region (enjoy Mesa, Ariz., kids — it’s forecast to be be 120 degrees next week). No, this doesn’t mean Boeing is “completely leaving the Puget Sound region.”
But it is a different economy now, and while Boeing remains a critical element, it has plenty of company.
Today’s Econ Haiku:
Nike’s sneaker slump
If our wages were rising
We might pay for Swoosh