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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

World-class not "merely boasting how darn great we are."

If I were the egocentric type, I'd probably think that none other than the P-I's Bill Virgin is a Seattle Bubble reader. A mere five days after I dispelled the notion that Seattle is "world class," Bill delivers the exact same message to a broader audience in today's column: So what makes a world-class city?

Is Seattle a world-class city?
...
During the heady days of No. 1 livability rankings and magazine covers and pop-culture references in music, movies and TV shows, Seattle got to thinking of itself as not just world-class but world-centric.
...
So should anyone care about whether Seattle is world-class?

In fact, there is an aspect to world-class status that goes well beyond meaningless exercises in civic pride (or, some would argue, overly and unjustifiably inflated ego) that does matter, at least in the realm of business and economics.
...
Which brings us to the question of how Seattle stacks up as a world-class city in the business sense.

The answer: Maybe not as well as we used to believe.

Just about every discussion of the economic fortunes of this region focuses on two companies: Boeing and Microsoft — with considerable justification.
...
And after that, what other sectors are there of which we can boast world-class status? Natural resource businesses like timber and fishing no longer figure prominently in the regional economy, much less nationally. Seattle never did emerge as a biotech center the way boosters hoped.

Interestingly, one sector in which Seattle has emerged as a leader is one in which it had not traditionally been a significant player — retailing. Such is Starbucks' status that it has influenced the direction of another giant, McDonald's, while Costco on a national level has forced none other than Wal-Mart to react to it.

Still, the portfolio is a little thin in terms of making Seattle a world-class business center. That's probably just fine with a lot of people. But if Seattle does aspire to world-class status as an economic development strategy, it's got some work to do, beyond merely boasting how darn great we are.

If you have to tell everyone you're world-class, maybe you really aren't.
Ding ding ding! We have a winner. Bill "gets it." Seattle is a nice city, but any way you look at things, it falls short of the "world class" title.

(Bill Virgin, Seattle P-I, 04.16.2007)

30 comments:

Shawn said...

I like what Bill said, "If you have to tell everyone you're world-class, maybe you really aren't."

It is the same sentiment that I had: A world class city is one that does not call itself a world class city--others do.

Scott said...

The Wall Street Journal today printed a story that shows "Washington Mutual Inc. was the #1 U.S. lender to investors and second-home buyers -- which are considered riskier loans than loans to primary occupants. 15% of WaMu's loans were non-primary residence, vs. 13% for Countrywide, 11% at Wells Fargo, 9% at JP Morgan Chase, and 5% at Citigroup"... this probably won't help any aspirations Seattle might have as a financial center.

Shawn said...

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Going Beverly Hills How many headlines are there that some big shot from LA is buying a mansion in Seattle? (not a bash, just a reality check)

Matthew said...

We'll know that Seattle has made it as a world class city when it becomes a serious contender to house the Olympics.

JP said...

I cry foul, Tim! Like our favorite non-bubble believer here, you're just cherry-picking articles which support your own opinion. For every article like this, I can find four or five which wax poetic about what a great place Seattle is to live and how we're even better than all of those so-called 'world-class' cities. Everybody knows that Seattle is one of the most desirable places to live, well, anywhere, so why do you keep having to prove otherwise? I'm getting pretty tired of all of this Seattle-bashing going on lately. If you don't like it here, move!

I could go on and on about how special we are. We've got Orcas--ain't none of those in the Windy City. We've got a Starbucks every other block--can't find that anywhere else. We've got Boeing, and Microsoft, not to mention the world's richest dude, dammit man, this is the center of the intellectual and financial universe! This is the only city anywhere with the Mariners, Seahawks, and the Sonics. I mean, you ever hear of the Oklahoma City Sonics? Preposterous!!! You find me a Space Needle or EMP in any other one of those hoidy-toidy cities. In how many other cities can you sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a floating bridge? And we've got two of them! I don't think you get it, Tim . . . Seattle is unlike any other city in the known universe, and this totally explains why people are mortaging future generations to live here, I know I would.

;<)

T,V & Mr.B said...

JP
"I can find four or five which wax poetic about what a great place Seattle is to live and how we're even better than all of those so-called 'world-class' cities."
+
"If you don't like it here, move!"

= If you don't like it HERE, then go to a blog that talks about all the wonderful things about seattle's housing.
Nobody is Saying Seattle Sucks here. They are only countering that Seattle is a World Class City and deserves to have the same housing prices as other world class cities. We all live here so we must like it. Chill out. No foul.

Lake Hills Renter said...

I think you missed this part of jb's post:

;<)

EconE said...

I'm not so sure I would even call Los Angeles a world class city.

Benjamin said...

Shawn,

Amazon was started in Seattle. First, the fact he's moving back here just means he fled this place years ago. Second, the headline "Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Going Beverly Hills" implies that he was in civilization in LA, and moving to the hodunk boondocks of Seattle where skeeters are big as mice. Hardly a ringing endorsement of our "World Class City" status.

MisterBubble said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
meshugy said...

Ah, Bill Virgin, the eternal sour puss.

The fact of the matter is, money talks and b.s. walks. People are moving here in large #s for high paying jobs and quality of life....if Seattle didn't have something going for it, it'd look a lot more like Detroit, with mountains. I don't really care about the "World Class" city label....I like living here, and apparently so do enough other people. Newcomers are generating demand and driving housing prices up. You can't simply argue this away...it's there. So however you analyze it, the bottom line is that Seattle's attractiveness is self evident. People keep coming here and buying houses.

Shawn said...

Ben,

the article talks about Jeff buying a mansion in BH, CA. I did not mean to imply the reverse, sorry for not being clearer.

The point I was making was that people, like Jeff a Seattle resident, buy homes in LA because it is a world class city. I was wondering how many rich folks from LA or BH buy mansions in Seattle?

andymiami said...

"The fact of the matter is, money talks and b.s. walks. People are moving here in large #s for high paying jobs and quality of life....if Seattle didn't have something going for it, it'd look a lot more like Detroit, with mountains. I don't really care about the "World Class" city label....I like living here, and apparently so do enough other people. Newcomers are generating demand and driving housing prices up. You can't simply argue this away...it's there. So however you analyze it, the bottom line is that Seattle's attractiveness is self evident. People keep coming here and buying houses."

I am moving to Seattle because I do agree that there are more opportunities in the digital arena, certainly more than Miami where I am relocating from. However, the credit excesses and speculation are nation wide, especially in Seattle as a result of upper middle income people buying second and third investment homes financed by WM. I cannot wait until the Seattle market takes on the same characteristics as Miami. Seattle is 18 months behind the rest of the world class cities like Miami..

So, do you think that I am moving to Seattle and buying a home. BTW, Seattle's housing stock sucks...

Deejayoh said...

The fact of the matter is, money talks and b.s. walks. People are moving here in large #s for high paying jobs and quality of life....

then you must be walking, because you are the biggest BSer on this blog. Both seattle income growth and population growth are flat This has been gone over ad nauseum and you continue to conveniently ignore the facts.

Lionel said...

I'm moving to Seattle, but I'm not a complete imbecile, so I'm renting. Fo three, four years, maybe longer. When prices drop to where they are about equal with renting, I'll buy.

rupert said...

World Class? Why the hell would we want to be "world class" like New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, London, Paris, Mexico City, Baghdad??? OK, maybe San Francisco and Vancouver. But really - who wants world class problems?

But on the specific topic of industry - I think you'd be hard pressed to find similar sized cities with such an international portfolio of companies - Nintendo, Weyerhauser, Amazon, Real, Immunex (now Amgen), Nordstroms, Alaska Airlines, Costco, WAMU, in addition to the obvious big 3.

meshugy said...

Hi DJ,

Both seattle income growth and population growth are flat

Actually, that's wrong. Seatlle gained 55,000 people from 2005-2006

Tech-Driven Metro Areas Renew Their Population Gains"

That's a lot of people needing homes in 1 year! No wonder prices are skyrocketing....it's all in the strong fundamentals:

jobs - check
population growth - check
quality of life - check

This all creates insatiable demand for housing....

Mike said...

Here's United Van Line's 2006 migration study.

As with 2005, Washington State is classified as having "Balanced" migration.

From the article, real estate firms, financial institutions, and other observers of relocation trends regularly use the United data in their business planning and analysis activities.

United Van Lines Releases 2006 Migration Study

Regarding this claim that Seattle had a net population gain of 55K last year is absurd - that's for the whole metro area comprising dozens of cities.

Anyone that lived here in the late 90's and experienced the mass migration during the dot com boom can easliy tell that the infulx we're seeing now is a trickle in comparison. I wonder if we'll ever see a boom like that again. 2007? Nowhere near those frenzied times.

JP said...

Shug,

Don't forget:

People buying 2nd (and 3rd, and 4th) homes as 'investments' - check (eg 'SeattleEric')

People moving up and buying their new home before selling their old home - check

Flippers? Naaaahhhh! Ain't got none a' them in these parts, nosirreee bob!

Lionel said...

So Shug, just so I get this straight: there's a bubble in LA, San Diego, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Moneterey, the Bay Area, Portland, Phoenix, Bilings, Boston, Chicago, Florida, Vancouver, New York, France, Ireland, England, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam, South Korea, Russia...

But not in Seattle.

Mike said...

Assuming the entire metropolitain area had 55000 people move here during 05-06. With an average household size of 2.4 (that's the KC average) There would be a need for just under 23000 homes.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, 2005 single family housing permits were 17,700, and multi-family permits were 7,950.

Even if all of the multi-family starts were duplexes, that would mean over 33,000 housing units were added to the metro area during the same time.

23,000 households, 33,000 homes...

Is that really a "shortage"?

MisterBubble said...

"That's a lot of people needing homes in 1 year! No wonder prices are skyrocketing...."

Yeah. We're fortunate that the Seattle population declined after the dot-com boom, or we might not have had the room for all of those Special People. Total population growth in the City of Seattle between 2000 and 2005 was an anemic 1.8%

Skyrockets aren't what they used to be, I guess....

MisterBubble said...

By the way? According to this, Phoenix has grown by nearly 16% since 2000.

I wonder how their housing market is doing?

T,V & Mr.B said...

I would just simply stop responding the
Shrug. He has nothing informative to say, his facts have continuously been erroneous, and basicaly he is an idiot who nothing in mind but to irritate people. that is about the only thing he is succesful at.

He can't formulate an argument that holds any weight and is infantile in his antagonism. Just let him bleed.

Mike said...

He can't formulate an argument that holds any weight and is infantile in his antagonism. Just let him bleed.

I really have to wonder about the motive behind this. On another forum I read, there was an M like character posting for 3 months using the same kind of tactics.

Turned out it was a masters student who was refining a personality profile and decided to test their model by fielding it in an online discussion group.

M is an archetype that we all run into in real life - and especially online.

uptown said...

Here are some interesting numbers from the census and MLS. I'm comparing King County to Santa Clara, CA - which is most of Silicon Valley (where the majority of the high tech jobs are). The counties are about the same size, and median household income is higher in Santa Clara by about $15,000 (2003 numbers).

Santa Clara County, CA -
MLS listings today = 6,014
2005 pop = 1,700,000
Housing units in 2005 = 605,121

King County, WA -
MLS listings today = 9,518
2005 pop = 1,794,00
Housing units in 2005 = 792,682

So tell me again; why are prices not going to go down?

Deejayoh said...

meshugy said...
Hi DJ,

Both seattle income growth and population growth are flat

Actually, that's wrong. Seatlle gained 55,000 people from 2005-2006


Um, reality check....

Seattle population = 570k. Do you REALLY believe we grew 10% population in one year? Your powers of intellect astound.

Our mayor is optimistically forecasting 100k new residents in Seattle in the next TWENTY years. 5k per year.

55k is probably King County. I am not even bothering to check the link, cuz you are so far off base.

LOL

Scott said...

By comparison, check out Light Rail Transit Success in Utah? which posts the text of a New York Times article describing how the Salt Lake metro area is second only to Denver in the amount of mass transit capacity that it is constructing. The article further describes how transit-oriented developments located close to light rail stations are finding success in the real estate market.

As a current Salt Lake resident and former Washington state resident, I find this remarkable. In any case, Seattle needs a significantly better mass transit system before it can call itself a world class city.

Scott said...

Followup: PriceWaterHouseCoopers ranks Seattle as 24th richest metro area in world...no doubt the numbers are skewed by Microsoft people, but nevertheless something to consider in the debate about Seattle's status in the world...

the platonic said...

Yes, just why do so many fellow Seattle-ites aspire to have a "world-class city"? Being one of the only areas of the country that housing prices are still on the rise should have awoken people to the fact that we do NOT need to attract more people OR business here. I find very few people here who are wishing for a more sprawling and crowded area.
If you aspire to live in a world-class city then it's a great time to sell your 2 br bungalow for half a mil and go buy that studio in Brooklyn you've always wanted. We stop bringing in high-tech industry and the yuppies dwindle. Then once again will the working class people here (who haven't been forced out already) can afford to live humbly and we can replace the image-obsessed, technocratic Seattle with the quirky, friendly city that many of us remember.