Venturing From Silicon Valley

Dear Shaft:

This is such an intriguing problem. I live in Tacoma WA, less than 30 miles from Seattle. Tacoma has office space and housing that are less than half the price of Seattle. We have vacant office space and much more open space (many free parking spaces in the core for example). I am a tech recruiter, mostly for Bay Area companies (forgive the implicit irony), and have lived in my town for over 25 years. In all that time, there has been a hue and cry for Tacoma to receive some spillover from the burgeoning and crowded Seattle tech scene (at least 50,000 jobs added in the last twenty years). Hasn't happened. During that same time period, we have added something like 500 tech jobs in Tacoma. This is not anything like trying to bring tech to East St Louis or Detroit. We have a branch of the University of Washington right in the downtown, and we also have two wonderful and valuable private colleges in Tacoma (UPS and PLU). Tech wants to cluster, for whatever set of reasons. You may know, being a tech professional, that while many well meaning folks are busy trying to invest in tech in small under-served cities, NYC has become the second largest tech cluster in the US, by employment and also by $$ of VC distributed. Shows that strict definitions of cost don’t matter anywhere near as much as being where the creative and educated workforce is. Tacoma has historically been as disrespected as Jersey is in NYC. A major corporation bought one of our crown jewel homegrown financial companies (Frank Russell), and the top brass when visiting always stayed in Seattle and took a town car down to their building in Tacoma. When the opportunity presented itself, they moved the entire company to Seattle. Tacoma BTW is a very diverse town, with 51% of the population being a mix of Latino, African American, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, and every immigrant group imaginable. Seattle is majority white, with 10–13% African American, etc. So enlisting more tech in Tacoma should be even more beneficial for marginalized groups as tech in Seattle.

Shaft, I am starting to ramble, but you get my drift — this will be a long and hard slog to ameliorate. Best of luck.

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