THE Seattle area is in danger of losing another corporate headquarters — never a positive development. During a swing through Washington, D.C., this month, Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son made no secret of his lust for Bellevue-based telecom rival T-Mobile.
A takeover is far from a done deal. Antitrust officials are expected to oppose it, the McClatchy Washington bureau reported. Less competition would be a raw deal for consumers.
But if T-Mobile is swallowed by Sprint, it would join a long list of onetime area companies whose CEOs now sleep elsewhere: Seafirst, Boeing, Washington Mutual, Safeco, Immunex, Airborne Express, QFC, Todd Shipyards, Fisher Broadcasting.
The Seattle region still can boast more major headquarters than many cities: Microsoft, Amazon.com, Costco, Nordstrom, Starbucks and Paccar, for starters. Keeping those companies, and growing more like them, should be a civic priority.
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Corporate headquarters make cities better in many ways. They attract capital and talent, well-paid people who often become leaders in community life. The companies spawn outside vendors to serve their needs.
They serve as incubators for new businesses — Expedia and Zillow can trace their lineage to Microsoft, for instance. Research shows charities in headquarter cities enjoy stronger financial support.
Wall Street forces outside any city’s or state’s control will continue to shape company fates. But there are common-sense steps Seattle, King County and Washington state can take to increase the likelihood of retaining existing Fortune 500 headquarters, and to ensure that newcomers like Zulily can stay and perhaps ascend to the Fortune 500 someday.
Support and fund education for students ages 3 to 23. Raise the quality of and reduce inequity of access to pre-K, K-12 and higher education. Protect and enhance the area’s vaunted quality of life and make strategic investments in transportation. Continue to promote a civic culture that values innovation, diversity and tolerance.
It won’t guarantee that Greater Seattle remains a headquarters magnet. But it should increase the odds.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).