Does local public policy matter? GeekWire report on tech sector rise in Bellevue helps answer the question.

Recently, the Nobel Prize for economics went to economists who pioneered a “natural experiment” examining the effect of different minimum wages for fast food workers across state borders. As noted bat the time and again when the award was presented, it was groundbreaking work … and appealingly simple. Just take note of the employment impacts, at what happened in the real world.

Perhaps something similar is playing out on both sides of Lake Washington. GeekWire has published the first of a four-part series on the growth in Bellevue. The headline over the story by Mike Lewis: Bellevue’s boom: City’s tech industry is poised to eat Seattle’s lunch

We recommend reading the piece in its entirety. There are, among other things, some valuable public policy insights. We’ve previously noted some of Seattle’s problems with homelessness, public safety, tax policy and more. Policy matters.

Lewis reports,

Tech companies are driving an unprecedented economic expansion in Bellevue, the 63-year-old city located just 12 miles east of downtown Seattle and just west of Microsoft’s sprawling campus in Redmond.

And what’s driving the boom? Tech execs say it’s Bellevue’s low crime rate, business-friendly politics, tent-free sidewalks, and vibrant downtown. 

Perhaps the best signal of Bellevue’s tech surge is Amazon, which humbly started in a small Bellevue house 27 years ago. It now plans to employ 25,000 people in this once sleepy suburb on the eastern shores of Lake Washington. That’s the same amount it expects to hire in Northern Virginia, or “Amazon HQ2,” as it looks beyond its Seattle headquarters amid an increasingly tense relationship with Seattle’s political leaders and policies.


Lynne Robinson, a Bellevue councilmember since 2014 who was elected mayor last year, courts the tech industry at every turn. The physical therapist and small business owner organizes and attends tech and networking events, and makes sure startups have the support they need. 

At an event hosted by the Washington Technology Industry Association earlier this month, Robinson noted that Bellevue city leaders have long created “a welcoming environment where people feel at home and feel they can get the support they need to grow their companies.”

The city also goes the extra mile to woo businesses, which runs in sharp contrast to what many describe as an anti-business political climate in Seattle.

Consider it a natural experiment and an opportunity for policy makers to learn from experience.