Friday Roundup: Fast-growing counties, college mergers, unionizing the gig economy, regulation, and minimum wage

There are always a few items we’ve read during the week that deserve more attention but don’t make it into our regular posts. So we bundle them for the Friday roundup.

Here’s this week’s bundle:

Seattle Times: New residents pour in: Pierce, Snohomish counties top the nation

Of the more than 3,100 counties in the nation, none gained more people from other counties last year than Pierce and Snohomish. They ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, for net gains in the number of people moving in domestically…

The new data are tantalizing — while they show a surprising influx into Pierce and Snohomish, they don’t reveal where in the U.S. all these movers are coming from. So at this point, it’s a matter of speculation on how much of the Pierce and Snohomish gain is King’s loss.

Stateline: Merging Colleges to Cut Costs and Still Boost Graduation Rates

As state policymakers nationwide consider merging colleges to cut costs, Georgia is proving that it’s also possible to use mergers to help students succeed. Preliminary research suggests that the first four mergers in the university system, out of 14 total since 2011, have made students more likely to stay in college.

The state’s consolidation strategy may not work in other states. And merging two- and four-year colleges may be the hardest consolidation to pull off. But Tim Renick, who leads Georgia State’s efforts to keep students on track to earn their degrees, said it’s worth asking if it might.

Seattle Times: Unionize Uber? Legal fight over Seattle drivers draws national attention

Advocates, politicians and business leadersnationwide are watching how the Seattle law, the first of its kind, unfolds. The outcome could influence whether other governments move to establish collective-bargaining rights for such workers amid the growing gig economy.

The law went into effect early last year with a waiting period before allowing unionization efforts. Local 117 got permission from the city to begin trying to organize drivers earlier this month. Unless the court intervenes, companies must turn over their drivers’ contact information to Local 117 by April 3.

The Lens: Removing Bureaucratic Roadblocks to Economic Development

A Senate bill now making its rounds in the House might finally improve Washington’s lengthy permitting process and save project leaders headache. That is according to lawmakers in favor of SB 5438, which passed out of the House Environment Committee unanimously this week. The measure would require state agencies undergoing State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review to plan to complete environmental impact statements (EIS’s) within two years, or quicker when feasible.

Permitting is a problem for Washington state. In a October 2016 report, the Washington Maritime Federation recommended the state adopt stricter timelines for completing project deadlines to prevent stalled development and missed economic opportunities.

Geek Wire: Study: Startup ecosystems across the country are bouncing back — but there’s more work to be done

The Great Recession struck a major and lasting blow to entrepreneurship but the nation’s startup ecosystem appears to finally be recovering.

That’s according to a new study from the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), a moderate think tank and policy advocate, and TechNet, an advocacy group comprised of tech CEOs…

Mandell also notes that this growth isn’t just taking place in coastal hubs like San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, and New York. Unsurprisingly, those tech centers dominated the study’s top 10 list of metro areas where “startup” appeared most frequently in job listings.

Wall Street Journal: Minimum Wage Reality Check

[Baltimore] Mayor Catherine Pugh, a Democrat, has rejected a bill that would raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022. She did so even though she had campaigned in favor of raising the minimum wage, which shows that economic reality can be a powerful educator. 

She explained her change of heart by noting that raising the rate above the $8.75 an hour minimum that prevails in the rest of Maryland would send jobs and tax revenue out of Baltimore to surrounding counties. The increase would also have raised the city’s payroll costs by $116 million over the next four years when she’s already coping with a deficit of $130 million in the education budget.