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Economic Experts: Optimistic Forecast for Seattle’s Regional Economy Despite Political Uncertainty

Despite an unprecedented level of uncertainty at the national level, economic forecasters project 2017 will be another very strong year for both the regional and national economies, according to three experts who presented today at EFC45, the 45th Annual Economic Forecast Conference. Hosted by the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County (EDC), this year’s conference—Business without Boundaries—provided participants with an exclusive look at how the economic ecosystem in the greater Seattle region promotes our uniquely diverse economy and showcased exciting examples of innovation and collaboration across industries.

“The Seattle-King County region has shifted from industry clusters working in isolation to one cluster informing another. Big data impacts health sciences; clean technology impacts construction; tech impacts aerospace and maritime—at these intersections lies our competitive advantage,” said Terry Danysh, EDC Board Chair and counsel at Dorsey & Whitney. “This diversity and interconnectedness allows us to adapt and capitalize on the current climate of change and continue to emerge as a vibrant global center that promotes jobs and economic prosperity for all.”

Forecasts from Chris Mefford, President and CEO of Community Attributes Inc., Skylar Olson, Senior Economist at Zillow, and Karin Kimbrough, Managing Director and Head of Investment Strategy at Bank of America, painted a positive economic outlook for the region in 2017 and for at least the next few years. Though potential pitfalls do exist, like the region’s dependence on foreign trade at a time of political uncertainty at the federal level, the underlying strengths of the regional economy should continue to outweigh these challenges. Mefford asserted that critical industries like aerospace and technology that depend on international customers should be confident in their growth prospects.

“This region has all the great things going for it that we have had,” said Mefford. “Major strengths are aerospace and the technology sector, even with news of the Boeing 777 [cuts]. Lots of uncertainty in aerospace is offset by clear demand for tech companies region wide.”

While Kimbrough sees an acceleration in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, potential fiscal stimulus and infrastructure spending in 2017, she is also expecting higher inflation and an increased growth rate to just over two percent. “So far, eight years into the expansion in the U.S., we’ve seen a fairly robust consumer that has propelled the economy along,” she said. “In 2017, we’re looking for business to play its part in propelling growth with capital expenditures to build plants, buy equipment, software and intellectual property.”

During the conference, executives from Amazon, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Madrona Venture Group, Envelop VR, PACCAR, BGI Groups USA, Providence Health & Services, Impact Bioenergy and others engaged in spirited discussions and provided insights and analysis on the potential for Seattle’s economic growth. Panel discussions focused on topics such as Economic Prosperity for All, Revolutionizing Transportation, Boundless and Life-Changing Technology, and Cutting-Edge Clean Tech. A special fireside chat focused on “Lessons learned from the San Francisco Bay Area,” featuring Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, laid out key decisions the region faces as we work to address housing affordability, traffic congestion and income disparity. A keynote address from Steve Banfield, CEO of ReachNow, BMW’s car sharing and ride sharing company, which was an EDC client and is now headquartered in Seattle, capped off an exciting day of speakers and panel discussions with an insightful look at the future of the sharing economy.

“Innovation is the economic driver of Washington State and what gives us our competitive edge around the world—whether it’s coming from a startup in someone’s garage or one of our FORTUNE 100 companies,” said Governor Jay Inslee. “We must continue to invest in our people and the infrastructure that make it all possible to ensure continued prosperity for years to come.”

“Technology acts as a catalyst across industries to help grow jobs,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Whether it’s aerospace companies adopting advanced manufacturing techniques, or cutting-edge research and development partnerships working to find cures for cancer, the constant infusion of new technology has boosted job growth across King County.”

The Puget Sound Business Journal’s Executive of the Year Award was presented to Dara Khosrowshahi, President & CEO of Expedia Inc. During the conference luncheon, the EDC presented its two Economic Development Champion Awards. Touchstone, a locally grown and owned Northwest company and 2016 winner of the NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association’s highest honor, Developer of the Year, received the private sector award. The Innovation Triangle (the cities of Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond) took home the public sector award.

“The Innovation Triangle is an exciting example of what can happen when cities work together,” said Phil Bussey, Senior Vice President & Chief Customer Officer at Puget Sound Energy. “With a common focus on growing and attracting new economy companies, this effort has tremendous potential to make a positive impact on the innovation ecosystem we have in the Seattle-King County region.”

As the largest forecast event in the Pacific Northwest, the EDC’s Economic Forecast Conference annually attracts hundreds of regional leaders from the public and private sectors, education institutions, labor and nonprofits interested in learning what lies ahead for the region, and networking with other Northwest community and business leaders. Participants gain insight into the critical economic issues facing our region with forecasts from nationally recognized experts. The 45th Annual Economic Forecast Conference saw a sold-out crowd and a record level of sponsorship, more than double that of the previous year.

“For 45 years, the EDC has brought together regional thought leaders and nationally recognized economists for the Northwest’s largest economic forecast conference,” said Suzanne Dale Estey, President & CEO of the EDC. “The investment made by our generous sponsors is critical for the EDC’s year-round work helping businesses large and small grow and create jobs throughout King County.”

The only public-private economic development partnership including business, labor, government, workforce and education partners, the EDC has been producing results across King County and its 39 cities in business retention, expansion and recruitment, for more than 45 years. The organization does this through a “ground game” of cluster-driven, client-focused economic development. With the support of a growing list of many valued public, private and non-profit investors, Dale Estey announced that in 2016 the EDC helped 45 businesses grow or retain 2,793 jobs and invest more than $344 million in the Seattle-King County region, in addition to contributing to job growth in King County of 45,900 over the past year and a low unemployment rate of 3.9%.

About the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County (EDC)

For 45 years, the EDC has provided confidential, free-of-charge consulting services to individual business clients, entrepreneurs, site selection decision makers and consultants working with companies seeking to do business in King County and its 39 cities. The EDC provides a unique set of services, tailored to the specific needs of our clients and focused on business growth and development leading to job creation. As the only public-private economic development partnership encompassing King County, the EDC’s unique value flows from our cluster-driven, client-focused approach to business development and ability to accelerate success by connecting businesses with our private and public partners and the variety of essential economic resources they provide. For more information, visit us online at http://edc-seaking.org/.

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