Washington state has created a highly desirable environment for business investment and job creation, spurred by its pro-business climate, highly skilled workforce and long legacy of innovation.
It has leveraged its many assets, including a superior transportation infrastructure, an end-to-end supply chain, low energy costs and renowned research institutions, to spur a $368 billion economy across a diverse group of industries from aerospace and boat building to information technology and life sciences.
Signature companies with names recognized around the world make their home in Washington and inhabit virtually every corner of the business landscape from technology to manufacturing to retail. Costco, Amazon.com, Microsoft, Nordstrom, Weyerhauser and Starbucks are just a few of Washington's leading corporate citizens.
“We have a young population that is globally focused and open minded,” says James Palmer, business development manager for the Washington State Department of Commerce.
Washington offers an environment that is pro-business and a distinct quality of life that includes ready access to beaches, waterways, forests and mountains. It has the cheapest, cleanest power available in North America, with nearly 75 percent coming from renewable sources. And it’s the only state on the West Coast with no state income tax. Washington ranked in the Top 10 on the 2012 State Business Climate Tax Index by the Tax Foundation.
Washington also offers a decided logistical advantage, including 75 ports and 139 airports. The quickest transit time from Shanghai to New York is through Seattle, Palmer says.
Made in the U.S.
Many U.S. companies are bringing manufacturing operations back home, and Washington is a leader in the industry’s revival. New Geography magazine ranks the state’s Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area as the No. 1 U.S. region for manufacturing growth.
“We’ve always had a strong manufacturing base,” Palmer says. “One hundred years of being a home for (aerospace manufacturer) Boeing has attracted thousands of companies to support it and its tier system. But we’re finding more and more companies bringing advanced manufacturing back from abroad due to rising costs, intellectual property protection issues, logistics issues and supply issues. And it’s a tremendous achievement to be the leader in that revival.”
It was the culture of innovation and access to a highly skilled workforce that drew global brand StairMaster to Vancouver. The company purchased Star Trac, an Irvine, Calif.-based leader in commercial fitness equipment, and considered relocating its headquarters to California. With involvement from the state, company decision-makers chose Washington instead, creating 100 jobs.
“There is a quality workforce in the Vancouver area,” says Ean Reves, chief financial officer. “And the Northwest area is home to a lot of fitness enthusiasts. We like that our employees are also participants in an active healthy lifestyle. The area is home to other like businesses and even though we may be competitors, it helps draw in talent and that’s good for all businesses in fitness markets.”
Palmer says Washington is home to more forward-thinking companies, such as Costco, Starbucks and Amazon.com.
“They were all ideas that were out of the box, created by progressive and creative people,” he says, adding that creative people are collaborative people. “It’s our secret sauce,” he says. “Our information technology companies work with our biotech companies and our manufacturing companies to create a diversified economy. The cross pollination of ideas has created tremendous innovation, such as better ways to deliver a vaccine.”
And the state boasts a quality of life that includes a lower cost of living, good schools, renowned arts and cultural offerings, and countless outdoor recreation options.
“Our business is family oriented,” Reves says. “We employ a lot of people with young families and this area has great schools and affordable housing. It makes a big difference.”