Snohomish County Leaders Gather to Address the Future
Economic Alliance Snohomish County, a private/public partnership, hosted its 2020 Economic Forecast in February. The forecast featured Edward Alden from Western Washington University (WWU), economist Dr. Bill Conerly, a panel discussion on real estate development and a presentation on Boeings’ HorizonX accelerator/venture undertaking. The panelists/presenters shared their expertise and insights on local and regional economic projections.
Mr. Alden, an adjunct professor at WWU and a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, suggested that Washington State will be hit the hardest by international trade issues as we are the most trade-dependent of the States. Alden outlined concerns regarding trade, including creating a new trade agreement between the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States post Brexit. The first step for the UK is to outline their trade agreement with the European Union, which will be a difficult conversation. The US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is substantially the same as NAFTA, the predecessor agreement, with a few modifications. Alden was concerned about the functional demise of the World Trade Organization.
In Dr. Conerly’s presentation, he reinforced a current consensus that there has never been a better time for a job seeker to be in the market.
Conversely, from the employers’ perspective, it is a serious challenge to find skilled candidates to fill positions.
The savings rate is creeping up and overall the consumer side of the economy is on solid ground. U.S. population growth is the lowest it has been in 100 years at 0.5%, a situation common to many other developed economies. Conerly stated that 26% of economists in a recent survey expect a recession; a figure higher than his personal assessment. He advised companies to create a recession plan. In previous recessions, the surviving companies had a plan and could react quickly.
Photo: Soundview Innovation Campus – a 500,000-square-foot campus focused on the digital revolution in Advanced Manufacturing, Aerospace, Life Science, & Clean Tech.
In assessing our competitive position, Conerly stated that people want to be in Snohomish County, evident by the steady population growth from in-migration and low unemployment at 2.4%. The biggest barrier to entry in Snohomish County is housing. It is estimated that 40 housing units need to be built per 100 new residents to accommodate growth. The last two years development in Snohomish County did not meet this level, representing a major issue for the future.
Following Dr. Conerly, a panel discussion addressed real estate development. The panel included moderator Andrea Newton of the Urban Land Institute Northwest, Jamas Gwilliam with Merlone Geier, Philip Wood of Dermody Properties and Joe Ollis with Smartcap.
Comments in order of panelist were:
- Lynnwood City Center redevelopment is seriously underway in anticipation of the arrival of lightrail.
- Traffic congestion and the lack of developable land south of Seattle are bringing distribution warehouses to Snohomish County to serve the “last mile” of the e-commerce distribution chain.
- Opportunity Zones, a federal tax deferral/exemption program, are investing their capital in Snohomish County development projects.
The panel emphasized the importance of working with economic development teams.
Gabrielle Kouchacji, a Principal with Boeings’ HorizonX Ventures, introduced their business model. The initiative looks at disruptive technologies, market development through non-traditional partnerships and innovative start-ups. Their business interests are grouped as: Mobility Transformation, Space and Connectivity, Industry 4.0 and Digital Acceleration. HorizonX has a global footprint representing offices, investments and four venture accelerators located in the UK, India, UAE and Australia; China is in the future.
Key takeaways from our presenters:
- The economy saw strong growth in 2018, but job creation is slower than previously seen
- Population growth is the lowest it has been in 100 years
- Economists forecast a 26% risk of a recession, making it vital for your company to have a recession plan in place
- Snohomish County is a desirable location with steady population growth from in-migration
- Accommodating forecasted growth is one of the biggest issues facing Snohomish County
- The arrival of light rail is changing the landscape in South Snohomish County
- The “last mile” in the delivery chain has a significant impact on real estate demand
- Traditional companies are growing using non-traditional approaches.
References to the growth of the Greater Seattle region now extend north to Snohomish County, confirmed by the initiation of commercial air service at Paine Field in 2019. Long recognized for a global impact on commercial aviation, the county is an established player in medical technology and a growing player in biotech, ICT, clean tech, automation and smart manufacturing. We are a place to live, work and play; an affordable suburban community proximate to urban amenities and great outdoor recreation destinations.