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Washington State: Building Business Legends

18 Jul, 2013

By: Governor Jay Inslee

Mention Washington State and some people will tell you that it rains all the time, there’s an espresso cart on every street corner and plaid shirts are still the height of fashion. Dig deeper, though, and you’ll quickly find that only one of these perceptions is even vaguely true (espresso stands) and that Washington State is actually a powerhouse of innovation, economic vitality and growth.

Nearly a half million companies are doing business in Washington today. Many are household names – legends in the business world – companies like Amazon, Costco, Microsoft, Nordstrom and Starbucks. Others aren’t well known yet, but will be. 

Part of the reason the state is so attractive to businesses and entrepreneurs is the pioneer spirit that helps define it; a spirit that continues to drive visionaries to take bold risks, choose the road less traveled and create amazing products and services in the process that are loved by millions and in some cases, have changed the world. 

Visionaries like Bill Gates and Paul Allen, two college-aged kids who revolutionized the computer industry with an operating system known as Windows; Bill Boeing who created an aviation juggernaut because he couldn’t get the parts he needed for his biplane; and Jeff Bezos, who wanted to build a better online bookstore and altered the very concept of retailing with a company called Amazon. 

Indeed, Washington State is a study in contrasts. The state produces 80 percent of the world’s luxury yachts, but is better known for its cherries and apples. Nearly 200,000 workers are employed in the technology sector, but the state is still considered an aviation empire, not a haven for high tech. Washington is ranked No.1 in software publishing, renewable energy and best places to earn a living, but is relatively unknown by many site selectors and real estate development professionals. 

Yet Washington has many of the competitive advantages today’s businesses are looking for. The state provides businesses with a perfect storm of opportunity for investment, partnership and expansion. The state is equidistant between Asia and Europe, has a savvy trade culture, robust supply chain and an outstanding quality of life that draws the best talent from throughout the world. 

A Culture of Innovation

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Taking a viable one to market and making it successful requires a very different skill set. Washington businesses are known for their new ways of thinking, turning ideas into products and services that not only sell, but that go on to become cultural icons. Competitiveness drives the marketplace, engaging companies and entrepreneurs to embrace new ideas, take risks and overcome seemingly impossible odds through perseverance and resourcefulness. This can-do culture is one of the many reasons Startup Genome named Seattle the fourth best place in the world to start a business. 

A Highly Skilled Workforce

Washington’s workforce has a reputation for getting the job done. Lifelong learning is the norm, not the exception. Innovative public-private partnerships result in workforce training programs that are positioning students for the jobs of the future. The state’s two major public universities – the University of Washington and Washington State University – are world-class R&D and education centers. Other public and private higher education institutions and workforce training programs ensure a steady stream of highly qualified, educated employees who can step right into key roles. 

A Global Export Hub

Washington State set a record for exports in 2012 – $75.5 billion – a 17 percent increase over the previous year. Key exports include transportation equipment, agricultural goods (300 crops are grown in the state), petroleum products and computer and electronic products. One of Washington’s competitive advantages is its 75 ports, some of which can cut transit times to and from Asia by a full day. International trade accounts for a third of the state’s economic growth and one in three jobs is tied to importing and exporting. 

An Abundant Supply of Low-cost Energy

Data storage, cloud computing, advanced materials production and many other businesses require substantial amounts of power. With the largest coordinated hydroelectric system in the world and growing emphasis on wind, solar tidal and other clean energy sources, Washington offers industrial users power rates as low as 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. The state’s affordable power is one of the main reasons BMW/SGL Group located a carbon fiber facility in Eastern Washington to build its i-series of electric cars. 

A Business-friendly State

Washington State offers businesses a couple perks only a few other states can offer. First, there are no taxes on personal or corporate income or capital gains. In terms of overall tax liability, the state ranks 42nd in state and local taxes as a percentage of gross state product, and 36th in the percentage of state and local taxes paid per $1,000 in personal income. Another bonus: Washington has a team of seasoned experts at the Department of Commerce who can help in the selection of the ideal site, assist with permitting and licensing, help find partnerships with other businesses and even accelerate entry into foreign markets. In the vast majority of cases, these services are offered free of charge. 

A Great Place to Raise a Family

It doesn’t rain all the time in Washington. In fact, parts of the state get more sun than Florida – 300 days on average. For those who love the great outdoors, it’s possible to ski, hike and sail, all in the same day. Washington residents are foodies so there’s plenty of world-class restaurants as well as a vibrant arts scene of galleries, museums, music, dance and theater. Washington State offers something for everyone, from breathtaking scenery and endless recreational opportunities to eclectic communities that are ideal for weekend escapes from the daily grind. 

Become a Washington State legend

Washington State has a long track record of creating, nurturing and building some of most well-known businesses and highly respected brands in the world.  Its business legends have ushered in the age of jet and space travel, spawned an international coffee culture with a language all its own, built digital empires out of slivers of silicon and strings of binary code, and in the process, fundamentally changed the way we think, shop, travel, dress, eat and relax. 

Any business looking for a new place to do business, one that welcomes new ideas, has a critical mass of top-notch business partners, competitive energy rates, integrated workforce training and a competitive, resilient and resourceful culture that is focused solely on building legendary businesses, will find Washington State is the place.

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