SEATTLE basks in the glory of being a leading edge city in the 21st century global economy.
The community celebrates and embraces that status until we are rocked by the reality of being a leading-edge city in the 21st century global economy. Visibility and success come with vulnerability and risks of complacency.
Two healthy measures of perspective were recently offered by Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Ray Conner, and the sale of Seattle-based Russell Investments to the London Stock Exchange Group.
Conner pledged Boeing’s fealty to the region in a dinner speech to the Trade Development Alliance of Great Seattle. The theme of the talk also had elements of what the literary types call foreshadowing. Continued investments in expanded production will also be mixed with the need to cut costs.
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Growth here and nip and tuck there, with corporate realignments of employment and production from Southern California to South Carolina.
Of course, the company has to be mindful of the expense of those transitions, from building plants to suffering the costs of shoddy goods and perilous outsourcing. Span of control and quality labor have measurable value.
Conner’s message about the company having nearly 2,000 Washington suppliers is heard loud and clear. Those skills are treasures of the local economy, and true assets for Boeing.
The sale of Russell Investments — again — is a reminder of how mobile or fungible skills and assets are in a universe that trades bits of paper and moves pixels about.
Setting up a plant floor is one thing, but moving numbers and number crunchers around is less about physical location. Tacoma lost Russell to Seattle and now Seattle might be second fiddle to … London or someplace stateside?
Our best defense is to make them think twice about the move.
The lesson for Seattle and Puget Sound goes back to the essence of Russell Investments’ universe: diversification.
This region must remain competitive, and be the place to do business. That means paying attention to all manner of infrastructure: education, transportation, communications, and public health and safety.
Employers large and small have to see the region as a ready place to do business, and get the job done.
The arena of competition is indeed the 21st century global economy.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).