By Jonathan Sanders
From the May/June 2015 issue
If there’s a shortage of construction cranes in the United States, blame Washington State. The skies are filled with them these days as projects, ranging from 40-story condominiums and five-star hotels to the new world headquarters of Amazon.com, take shape.
Indeed, Washington’s economy is experiencing historic growth statewide. Fueled by the information communication technology (ICT), life sciences, advanced manufacturing and aerospace sectors, business and investment opportunities have never been better. While other states duke it out, trying to outdo one another with incentives, Washington State has eschewed hyperbole in favor of results—helping businesses dominate entire markets with amazing products and services that have changed the world.
If you have a computing device that does Windows, order your morning coffee using more than three words, were surprised to find out that Amazon is also a river in South America, or have flown aboard any passenger jet that starts and ends with the number ‘7,’ chances are good that you’re already quite familiar with Washington State.
New ideas seem to come easily to the state’s entrepreneurs, largely because the region has a deeply ingrained pioneer spirit where out-of-the-box thinking is more likely to get you early-stage funding than a judgmental stare or finger wag.
A MELTING POT OF INNOVATION
Cooperation and collaboration are the norm and it’s not uncommon for professionals from different companies or even industries to come up with the next big thing over a craft beer in a local brewpub or on a mountain trail in the Cascades.
An excellent example of this cross-pollination is the use of Integrated Modular Avionics in automobiles. Standard in commercial aircraft, IMAs are a blend of software and hardware that replace complex wiring systems and connect the car digitally to a larger transportation system. Another good example: Washington researchers are using synthetic scorpion venom to light up tumors so cancerous cells can be removed, leaving healthy cells behind.
Washington’s intellectual capital, legendary entrepreneurial mindset and collaborative ecosystem have drawn some of the largest, most well known companies in the world. In recent years Facebook, Google, eBay, SpaceX, Alibaba, Apple and Twitter have opened offices, joining such local juggernauts as f5 Networks, Cray, Tableau, Valve and Zillow and business legends Amazon, Boeing, Costco, Expedia, Microsoft, REI and Starbucks.
The state’s highly skilled workforce, robust supply chain, low energy rates and reputation for innovation have drawn international firms to Washington as well. Taking advantage of energy rates as low as 4.25 cents per kilowatt-hour, SGL Group opened a massive composites facility in the state that has the capacity to manufacture a fifth of the world’s demand for composite materials. Other multinational firms in Washington include BAE Systems, Dassault Systems, Mitsubishi, Philips Healthcare, REC Silicon, Safran, Sharp, Shell, Toray and Zodiac.
Companies are also drawn to Washington by the state’s competitive tax structure. Washington is one of only 10 states in the U.S. that doesn’t have a personal or corporate income tax. The state ranks near the bottom when it comes to local and state taxes paid per $1,000 in personal income in the U.S. Businesses in specific targeted sectors are also eligible for tax incentives and deferrals.
Does it really rain all the time in Washington? That’s a bit of an urban myth. While the state gets its share of precipitation because of its temperate marine climate, Seattle actually ranks 44th among major cities in average annual rainfall, far less than New York, Boston, Houston and even Miami. Parts of Eastern Washington get more sun annually than Florida, so even on the cloudiest of days you can still catch a few rays.
Washington’s culture is international in flavor and diverse. There’s a vibrant arts and music scene, world-class museums, symphonies and ballet, Broadway-level theater and nearly every cuisine imaginable featuring locally sourced ingredients. If the great outdoors floats your boat, you can go for an exhilarating hike in the morning, play a round of championship golf in the afternoon and still have enough time for a sunset sail. Washington truly has something for everyone, from its dazzling scenic vistas and melting pot diversity to its eclectic communities that beckon you to escape from the daily grind and kick back for the weekend.
Washington State has a long track record of creating, nurturing and building some of the most well known companies and highly respected brands in the world. The state’s business legends have ushered in the age of jet and space travel, spawned an international coffee culture with a language all its own, built digital empires out of slivers of silicon and strings of binary code, and in the process, fundamentally changed the way people around the world shop, travel, eat, drink, relax, dress and think.
For more information about Washington State, visit www.choosewashingtonstate.com or call (206) 256-6100.
PORT OF VANCOUVER: READY TO BUILD SITES
The Port of Vancouver USA in Southwest Washington has abundant property ready for development with a lot of room for growth. The port currently occupies a total of 2,127 acres, including more than 800 acres of developed, operating industrial and marine facilities and 600+ acres available for future development. Coupled with its new industrial park property, prime location, and rail expansion project currently underway, the port is a very attractive option for companies looking to expand or relocate to the Pacific Northwest.
The port’s 108-acre Centennial Industrial Park (CIP) features 58 acres that are now ready-to-build and available for sale or lease. It also has an adjacent 50 acres available for future development, ideal for light industry, advanced manufacturing and supply-chain support. Infrastructure improvements have already taken place at the site, including final site preparation, underground utilities, roads and sidewalks, and a state-of-the-art stormwater management system. These improvements were made possible thanks to a $5.7 million grant through Washington’s 2012 Jobs Now Act that was intended to help generate jobs.
Especially significant in today’s economy is the port’s ability to help prospective tenants think outside the box when it comes to finding funding sources for project development. One example of a creative approach to funding is utilization of the federal New Markets Tax Credit Program, which was instrumental in attracting Farwest Steel, one of the leading distributors, processors and fabricators of specialty steel products in the Northwest, to the port.
The Port of Vancouver USA is nearing completion of a $275 million rail infrastructure improvement called the West Vancouver Freight Access Project that will improve the movement of freight through the port and along railroad mainlines that connect the Pacific Northwest to major rail hubs in the U.S. and Canada. It significantly increases the port’s capacity to handle additional rail cars each year so goods can move more quickly to market, and lowers costs for U.S. manufacturers, making them more globally competitive.
In addition to CIP and the rail expansion project, the Port of Vancouver USA has over three million square feet of warehouse and industrial space, and has made substantial investments in leading-edge facilities.
Clark County, home of the port, has low taxes and offers workers and their families all the advantages of a major metropolitan city: outstanding livability, access to affordable housing, cultural and recreational opportunities, and quality school options for primary, secondary and higher education.
Site selectors look at how well various areas can accommodate their logistics needs when planning expansions or new development projects. Combined with Washington State’s highly skilled labor force and progressive business climate, the Port of Vancouver USA has the assets tenants need to grow and thrive. For more information, visit www.portvanusa.com or call (360) 693-3611.