Microsoft’s effort to build better connections between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., is deserving of support.
EFFORTS by Microsoft to build a stronger relationship between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., are valuable and worth government support.
More collaboration between the region’s universities, smoother border crossings and improved transportation between the cities will benefit both Washington and British Columbia.
This leads to other policy questions around immigration and infrastructure priorities that are less clear and will need further consideration during the next presidential term.
Government and business leaders from Seattle and Vancouver periodically announce efforts to strengthen ties between kindred cities that are hubs of technology, tourism and commerce and are cosmopolitan gateways to Asia.
Microsoft is doing more than revive that conversation. It’s also providing a physical reminder of our connections, in the form of glamorous offices it opened last summer in the heart of Vancouver.
The Redmond company’s Canadian expansion may contribute to the U.S. debate about fixing our immigration system. Vancouver has long served as a way station for overseas talent that Microsoft needs but cannot directly hire in Redmond because the U.S. visa system has less flexibility than Canada’s.
Jobs lost overseas are a concern, but this situation is more about meeting the tech industry’s insatiable appetite for talent.”
Jobs lost overseas are a concern, but this situation is more about meeting the tech industry’s insatiable appetite for talent.
That appetite pushed Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook to expand in Seattle over the last decade. Now it’s pushing Microsoft, Amazon and others to open satellite offices in Vancouver. At the same time, Seattle tech companies are still trying to hire thousands — more than they will employ in Vancouver — at home in Seattle.
These tech giants straddle the West Coast, all of which can be considered an extension of the emerging Cascadia innovation corridor. Perhaps they should start infilling along the Interstate 5 corridor and expand in smaller cities such as Everett and Tacoma.
During ceremonies in Vancouver last month, Microsoft also suggested a high-speed rail line between Seattle and Vancouver. It’s good to dream big and pursue bold ideas, but this concept must be weighed on its merits and balanced with state and federal priorities that need funding.
It might not be a coincidence that the alluring rail proposal surfaced as tech and pharmaceutical giants lobby for an enormous tax break on trillions of dollars they’re holding overseas. Some have floated the idea of bringing that cash back to the U.S. on condition their taxes are slashed and remaining tax proceeds boost infrastructure spending.
How to reform immigration and tax policies and allocate any federal windfalls are conversations to look forward to in 2017 and beyond.
In the meantime, the need for improved connections between Seattle and Vancouver is as clear as our coastal air after a rainstorm.