According to the Seattle Times, 70% of the cargo unloaded at the Port of Seattle is destined for locations in the midwest and beyond. That’s why there is concern that the upcoming expansion of the Panama Canal may have negative effects on our local ports. The new third lane of the Panama Canal, scheduled to open in 2014, will allow larger vessels through. West Coast ports may see a loss of cargo as more shipments go through the canal to East Coast ports that are closer to the cargo’s final destination. Read more about the canal expansion in the Seattle Times.
We’ve done our fair share of hellos and goodbyes over the years here at the Prosperity Blog. We acknowledged our former Director of Economic Development taking flight to Boeing and welcomed our new Director of Economic Development to the fold. We even said farewell to one of our team members in the last paragraph of a Weekly REDEW post.
But this sendoff post is the hardest because, well, it’s for me! After five long years at the Prosperity Partnership – and 383 posts (!) on the Prosperity Blog – I’m off to a new, um, “world of adventure.”
Deep in the hearts of local economic development people everywhere is the hope that maybe, just maybe, jobs that have been outsourced to other countries will come back. It’s called “onshoring,” the idea that local companies who opened factories in other parts of the world will say, “this isn’t working…I’m going back to the old way of doing things.” Or rather, “I’m going back to the old place where I used to do things: the U.S.!”
But one of the newest reasons for this trend has nothing to do with our labor costs or quality issues. Rather, it’s the fact that workers here don’t get shot at.
When we started doing the Prosperity Partnership “industry cluster tours” three years ago – every three months, getting 30-40 business, government and community leaders on a bus for a day-long exploration of a different industry in our region – I had a key organizing principle for how I selected our tour stops: the “I’ve Always Wanted to Go There” rule. It was under the assumption that everyone knew about our various assets in clusters like aerospace, IT and life sciences, but had never had the opportunity and/or the access to go see them. And so, we got behind the scenes tours of Boeing factories or Seattle BioMed’s “insectarium” or REI’s logistics center in Sumner.
But now that we’ve done tours of the major industries in our region, we’ve moved into a new rule of thumb: the “I Had No Idea This Was Here” principle. That was the case back in December when we did a day-long bus tour of the specialty foods industry (stopping at places like Green Mountain Coffee’s robotic coffee packaging facility). And it was absolutely the case last week when we did our latest industry cluster tour…on the stunningly significant fashion & apparel cluster in our region.
I have one add to Eric’s excellent post on the Greater Seattle Chamber’s Intercity Study Mission to the Silicon Valley. The trip is the the Chamber’s domestic study mission, as compared to the international trip that the Trade Development Alliance organizes for the Chamber…which this year travels to the UK.
But the Chamber’s Intercity trip to Silicon Valley was anything but domestic in nature. In our technology neighbor to the south we found an engineering work force that was 50 percent foreign born led by CEOs a majority of whom were also born overseas. We saw electric car company business models that are targeted at international markets, a social media platform that connects hundreds of millions of people across the world and schools that are preparing students for a life lived in an ever connected globe.
The Silicon Valley would not be the Silicon Valley without large international customers, without foreign talent and without important partnerships abroad. The same, of course, is true for Greater Seattle’s technology sectors. In today’s globalized world, even a domestic study mission is an international study mission
Last week’s Best Meeting of the Week was hard to pick. For a short, four-day week, there were a wealth of options. But, proximity is the mother of inspiration (or something like that), so I’m going to go with Friday’s meeting. On Friday, I was at the Sea-Tac Airport Conference Center for the “Pacific Northwest Supply Chain Summit: Identifying Key Infrastructure and Logistics Issues and their Potential Solutions.” Put on jointly by the Ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Portland*, this was a forum for folks in the logistics and international trade industry (ports, manufacturers, railroads, trucking companies, expeditors, etc.) to share with the federal government their highest priority policy initiatives around supply chain infrastructure. In particular, the feds were interested in hearing about changes that would facilitate increased exports, in line with the National Export Initiative.
Now, a half day session on export promotion and supply chain infrastructure doesn’t have as much intrigue as season two of The Wire (which took place at a port, for the non-initiated). But I learned, or at least reinforced, some interesting things. And my number one take-away about export promotion through supply chain infrastructure investments? Sometimes investments in commute-trip reduction are just as good as new multi-modal infrastructure. Or to say it a different way, investments that get people out of their cars help facilitate international trade!
I’ve been a stranger in these here parts recently but only because my beat—international trade and logistics—is busier than ever. International activity waits for no great recession. But, given all the talk of China and global currency wars recently, I can’t resist pointing out this speech by Pascal Lamy, Director General of the WTO. The gist of it is the trade statistics which policy makers use to make decisions are outdated. Here’s a particularly relevant section: Read the rest of this entry »