TNT business writer: Amazon HQ2 search reveals economic development opportunities in Seattle’s “pending misfortune”

The Amazon HQ2 competition, we’ve said, represents an opportunity for our state – and the cities within it – to engage in some constructive introspection. Several Washington communities submitted bids, which entailed conducting a self-assessment of their attributes, strengths and weaknesses. 

Business writer Bill Virgin points out in The News Tribune that, regardless of where Amazon decides to plant its second headquarters, cities in the region should be willing to compete with Seattle for economic development. 

…there’s a golden economic-development opportunity awaiting just up the road, one with no connection to Amazon.

He writes of the upcoming municipal elections in Seattle, the various tax proposals under consideration in the city, transportation congestion, commercial real estate availability and affordability, and the underlying intangible cited by Amazon, a “business friendly environment.” Notably, a number of Seattle political leaders recently sent Amazon executives a letter seeking a “refresh” of the city’s relationship with the company.

Virgin writes,

The more nimble and adept economic development entities are already combing through lists of small and mid-sized companies in Seattle and making discrete pitches to businesses about relocating.

Should Seattle catch wind of these efforts and care enough to complain about poaching, the effort can always be couched as being to Seattle’s benefit — “See, we’re doing you a favor taking some of the growth you’re always complaining about.”

The Puget Sound region has generally taken a  cooperative and collaborative approach to economic development, recognizing the common labor pool, integrated transportation systems, and regional identity.

Challenge Seattle, an organization headed by former governor Chris Gregoire, in August proposed merging several Puget Sound economic development groups to create a single regional economic development organizations. The Economic Development Board of Tacoma and Pierce County opted out, dealing the regional plan an initial setback.

While Virgin may simply be offering a provocative idea to spark conversation, that conversation has value. The more that cities in the region display disparate regulatory and tax policies, for example, the less the regional identity coheres. As Jason Mercier writes, the regional pitch for HQ2 cited the lack of a personal income tax in support of the area’s “business-friendly environment.”

More introspection may be in order.