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Seattle: Economy


Major Industries and Commercial Activity

While Seattle has in the past been largely dependent on the aerospace industry (it is the headquarters of the Boeing Company, the world's largest aerospace firm), the city's diverse economy is also based on the manufacture of transportation equipment and forest products as well as food processing and advanced technology in computer software, biotechnology, electronics, medical equipment, and environmental engineering. In 2003 Corbis, one of the world's leading providers of digital images, moved its headquarters to downtown Seattle. Nonmanufacturing activities, however, comprise more than 85 percent of the Seattle economy; international trade, for instance, is a leading industry, accounting for a large portion of jobs statewide.

The Port of Seattle, the second largest handler of container cargo in the country, provides a direct connection to the Orient and serves as a major link in trade with markets in Alaska, on the Gulf of Mexico, and on the Atlantic Coast. With its multifaceted transportation network of freeways, railroads, an airport, a ferry system, and port facilities, Seattle is the principal trade, distribution, financial, and services center for the Northwest. Tourism continues to be a vital part of the city's economy.

Items and goods produced: food products, textiles, aluminum, iron and steel products, lumber, flour, clothing, airplanes, canned fish and fruit

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Among the incentives available to businesses in Seattle/King County are customized employee training, low interest loans, and tax deferrals. In addition to federal government assistance, state and local governments in the area have offered a package of incentives to meet the unique needs of business and industry.

Development Projects

With Seattle mired in a recession in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Mayor Greg Nickels created the Economic Opportunity Task Force to revitalize distressed neighborhood business districts and work on policies that benefit the University of Washington. Also at the top of the mayor's economic development agenda were transportation issues, including replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the expansion of the Seattle mono-rail, and the improvement of Sound Transit's light rail line.

Perhaps one of the area's most ambitious projects, the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel, has been announced. Because the adjacent seawall is deteriorating and the viaduct itself was severely damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, both structures need to be rebuilt in order to remove a threat to public safety and the economy. The viaduct is one of the state's most important transportation corridors, carrying 110,000 vehicles a day. Since 2001, millions of dollars have been spent to secure it. The next steps for the project will be to complete a Final Environmental Impact Statement in 2006 and pursue funding for the project. Construction to replace the viaduct and seawall will begin in 2009, pending available funding.

Numerous apartment, condominium, hotels, retail, and other spaces are under construction or renovation in the downtown area. The new 362,987-square-foot Downtown Central Library opened in May 2004. The first phase of construction to transform eight acres of waterfront property adjoining Myrtle Edwards Park into an open space began in June 2004. The park will have a two-story pavilion, parking for 54 vehicles, and pedestrian walkways as well as a pedestrian overpass.

In addition to a massive, $300 million expansion of Terminal 18, the Port of Seattle has been carrying out other projects as a part of the Seattle Seaport Terminal Project. The plan consists of numerous smaller projects that are expected to improve the port's terminals for businesses, tourists, and passengers. In past decades, the Port has invested $2.1 billion in facilities improvements and plans to invest an additional $2.9 billion over the next decade. Dredging the east waterway of the Duwamish River is expected to cost $7.5 million and will help make several more of the Port's container berths deep enough to accommodate the next generation of container ships. This will also create jobs both on the waterfront and throughout the region. The first phase of a $12.7 million cruise terminal began in 2000; Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International will use the port for new cruise services.

Economic Development Information: City of Seattle Office of Economic Development, telephone (206)684-8090; fax (206)684-0379. State of Washington, Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development, telephone (206)464-6282. Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle, telephone (206)389-7301

Commercial Shipping

Seattle's economy benefits from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is served by 16 cargo carriers. The city's most important commercial asset is Elliott Bay, one of the finest deep-water ports in the world. The Port of Seattle is the fifth largest container port in the United States and the twentieth largest in the world. It can accommodate ships up to 1,400 feet in length and provides generous warehouse space. Two transcontinental railroads and more than 170 motor freight carriers transport goods to and from Seattle.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Seattle offers an educated, skilled, productive, and stable work force, who are attracted to the area by the quality of life. Although experts proclaim that the post-September 11, 2001, recession has ended, it will not be until beyond 2005 that the area will surpass employment levels seen at the peak of the economic boom in December 2000.

In spite of recent setbacks, local analysts expect continued growth in the Seattle area, especially in manufacturing industries (mainly aircraft and biotechnology) and services.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 1,335,500

Number of workers employed in . . .

natural resources and mining: 1,300

construction: 76,400

manufacturing: 145,300

trade, transportation, and utilities: 260,100

information: 72,200

financial activities: 89,700

professional and business services: 181,800

educational and health services: 138,700

leisure and hospitality: 122,600

other services: 49,100

government: 198,400

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $18.27 (2004 annual statewide average)

Unemployment rate: 4.7% (January 2005)

Seattle: Economy

Largest county employers Number of employees
The Boeing Company 64,000
Port of Seattle 11,225
Alaska Air Group Inc. 11,150
Microsoft Corporation 11,000
University of Washington 10,000

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Seattle is not inexpensive, given the relatively high price of housing. The average monthly rental cost for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, unfurnished apartment is $913. The estimated purchase price for a new home (three bedrooms and two full baths) with approximately 1,800 square feet of living space in the Seattle area is $313,983.

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the Seattle area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $354,843

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 122.7 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: None

State sales tax rate: 6.5% (food and prescription drugs are exempt)

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 1.0%

Property tax rate: $10.21-12.18 per $1,000 assessed value (2004)

Economic Information: The Greater Seattle Datasheet, City of Seattle, Office of Intergovernmental Relations, telephone (206)684-8055; fax (206)684-8267


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