Sight on Seattle

Sac seeks inspiration from the Emerald City

Back Article Jan 1, 2012 By Andrea Kennedy

As Sacramento’s Next Economy initiative tackles job growth, it is looking at a spectrum of untapped industries — as opposed to singling out individual industries — ripe for expansion. That strategy is the hallmark of two groups in the Seattle area.

One is the Prosperity Partnership, a coalition of government, business, labor, nonprofit and community leaders in a four-county area surrounding Seattle. Formed in 2004, it now has a membership of about 150 and conducted an economic analysis resulting in the 90-page “Regional Economic Strategy for the Central Puget Sound Region.”

The other organization is enterpriseSeattle, a public-private economic development partnership steering growth in the Puget Sound area. Now in its 41st year, it has 100 members and an annual budget of about $1 million.

EnterpriseSeattle assigns a business development manager for each of the five economic clusters in the Prosperity Partnership plan: information technology, aerospace, life sciences, international trade and logistics, and clean technologies. Any particular business cluster might be allotted 2.5 percent to 10 percent of the organization’s overall budget. The rest of the budget is split among investor relations, marketing, staff and financial management.

“I learned a long time ago that companies don’t have time to teach you their industries while you are trying to help them,” says Jeff Marcell, enterpriseSeattle’s president and CEO. His paid team members have already established credibility in their respective industries and have their own networks. Each has a portfolio of 50 to 75 companies to deal with, about half of them outside the Seattle area.

Seattle’s vulnerability is aerospace. Employment in the sector is nearly 10 times the average of other metro areas its size. That’s great when Boeing is selling a lot of planes, but bad when business tails off. So, while serving the region’s largest employment cluster, enterpriseSeattle also tries to beef up others.
Success is based not only on the total number of new jobs created, but the cost per primary job, the local tax base growth and other measures.

EnterpriseSeattle puts out detailed reports on each cluster it wants to bolster, such as the 63-page analysis of the financial services cluster, produced this past June. That report cost about $50,000 to produce, funded by local governments and the local work force development council. Now, the local financial services industry itself is coming together to fund and create a growth plan. Unfortunately, the loss of Seattle’s own Washington Mutual to banking giant JP Morgan Chase has posed a setback to that effort.

But in 2010, enterpriseSeattle saw two big recruitment wins: the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, which chose the Puget Sound region for a 125-person interactive media education institution, and the American Strategic Group, which plans to open a 65-employee clean-tech center.

This past September, enterpriseSeattle won a $1.2 million grant toward setting up the Washington Interactive Media Accelerator. The WIMA is intended to assist startups, provide internships and other training opportunities and collaborate on curriculum development and mentoring.

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