The 1990s were Washington's busiest years in terms of technology company start-ups. Software and computer-related businesses accounted for most of the activity but more traditional manufacturing companies were also emerging. Even today, computers, software, and related activities make up the largest single portion in Washington technology companies. Manufacturing of all types is another strong element.
Washington technology companies cross borders and many are world leaders. Boeing's airplane sales make that company one of the nation's leading exporters. Microsoft has offices around the world and its products are in use on every continent. However, even small firms benefit from foreign trade and over half of Washington's technology companies are in overseas markets. Aerospace/transportation equipment is the largest industry in Washington state, run primarily by Boeing.
The state's biotechnology firms are growing at a phenomenal rate, but many are still in the research and development stage. More than two-thirds are developing products for human health care. Most of the firms not focused on medical treatment are developing products and processes for the state's natural resource sectors: agriculture, food processing, forestry, veterinary medicine, marine industries, and environmental waste clean-up and management.
Washington state is one of the top 15 film-production states in the US. Film and video have grown to represent at least a $100-million-a-year industry. Washington state has approximately 1,500 film and video businesses which provide jobs for about 5,000 state residents. Washington film companies make feature films, television movies, TV series or episodes, TV commercials, documentaries, industrial films, and music videos. Out-of-state producers shoot over 100 film and video projects in Washington annually, contributing more than $40 million to the state's economy every year; $45 million is generated by in-state film and video companies.
The total value of shipments for manufactured goods in 1997 was $82 billion. In 1997, Washington was the headquarters for eight Fortune 500 companies: Boeing, Costco, Weyerhaeuser, Microsoft, Paccar, Nordstrom, Safeco, and Washington Mutual.
Earnings of persons employed in Washington increased from $108.1 billion in 1997 to $118.1 billion in 1998, an increase of 9.3%. The largest industries in 1998 were services, 28.4% of earnings; durable goods manufacturing, 13.0%; and state and local government, 11.8%. Of the industries that accounted for at least 5% of earnings in 1998, the slowest growing from 1997 to 1998 was state and local government, which increased 4.2%; the fastest was durable goods manufacturing, which increased 14.3%.