Maritime Industry Cluster Tour Recap

June 22, 2012

On Wednesday, June 20th the Prosperity Partnership hosted a cluster tour focused on the region’s maritime industry, which employed nearly 17,000 workers in 2011. The tour began with a visit to Argosy Cruises aboard the Royal Argosy to learn about the thriving marine tourism business. Argosy employs around 250 employees, including captains, sales and reservation agents, culinary staff and entertainers. These employees support over 4,500 ship departures and host about 600,000 guests annually.

From there, participants received a tour of Vigor Industrial shipyards on Harbor Island (the former Todd Pacific Shipyards) and saw the beginnings of the first of the two new 144-car ferries being built for Washington State Ferries. Vigor Industrial employs around 2,000 employees, 1,200 of who work in Washington. These highly skilled workers earn in the range of the low $40,000s to the high $110,000s.

Next, the tour visited the facilities at the Port of Tacoma, which supports more than 43,000 jobs in Pierce County, and 113,000 jobs in the state. Around 70% of the cargo that comes in through the Port of Tacoma is bound for locations outside of Washington. Recently, their biggest growth has been in “break bulk” cargo, those large specialized items that cannot be shipped in containers.

Heading back north, the Port of Seattle presented their Century Agenda at Fisherman’s Terminal in Seattle, home to the North Pacific Fishing Fleet. Attendees then boarded a tug provided by Western Towboat and took a tour of the ship canal, wrapping up the day at Kvichak Marine.

Washington State Wine Industry

April 25, 2012

A study commissioned by the Washington State Wine Commission highlights the effect that the state’s wine industry has on the economy. Washington’s wine industry is the second largest in the county behind California. According to the study, the industry contributes $8.6 billion and nearly 30,000 jobs to the local economy. This is nearly three times the amount that was revealed in a similar study in 2007. Read articles discussing this in the Seattle Times and at KOMO news.

Washington – The Only State Without a Tourism Office

July 22, 2011

It’s big enough news that other states are noticing – Washington State is now the only state in the nation without a tourism office.

Tourism is Washington’s fourth-largest industry. The Department of Commerce reports that tourists spent more than $15 billion in the state in 2010 (and in turn generated nearly $1 billion in tax revenues). Of course, people all over know about the Space Needle, or the Fremont Troll, or the fish throwers in Pike Place Market. One thing that can fly under the radar is how important tourism is to Washington’s rural counties. In six of the state’s counties more than 10% of jobs are travel related – all rural counties.  So sure, people elsewhere know many of the things Seattle has to offer, but do they know that they can pair their bustling urban visit with a relaxing trip to some wineries, maybe climb a mountain, or visit a rain forest?

Compared to other states, the budget for the Washington State Tourism Office was relatively small at $1.8 million in 2010. In 2011, Oregon is spending $10 million, Montana is spending $14 million, and California is spending $50 million. So, what effect will this have on the state’s tourism? A recent New York Times article highlights a similar situation that happened in Colorado. In 1993, the state’s tourism office closed up and didn’t reopen until 2000. Tourism in the state still hasn’t risen to the national share it had before the closure. Al White, the current head of Colorado’s tourism office states “It’s really difficult to affect market share positively, but it’s really easy to affect it negatively if you’re not out there.”

So, will Washington State not be “out there”, and begin to lose ground to neighboring states who are getting their messages out? In response to the loss of the tourism office, private businesses are trying to step in and fill the gap. The Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA), a nonprofit organization formed by a number of tourism related businesses, is looking to continue the work of the Washington State Tourism Office – which includes taking control of the Experience Washington website. The WTA is still working on a funding model for the organization, but it will likely come from membership fees and/or assessments. As reported in the Seattle Times, a push is happening in Seattle to charge a $2 per-night room tax in downtown hotels with more than 60 rooms – a move supported by hotel owners. Revenues from this tax would be used to fund advertising to promote travel to Seattle. These funding models are similar to what other areas do, including California and British Columbia.

Regardless of whether promotion is done directly by the state or through private partnerships within the state, it’s a good idea to keep Washington in the minds of those out of state tourists. And it’s important that they know which Washington. Not that one – Washington, the state.

Weekly B-MOW: Washington Tourism Alliance Summit

April 1, 2011

Yesterday, I went to the Washington Tourism Alliance Summit. Talk about trying to make lemons into lemonade. As I’ve mentioned before, many different parts of the state budget are being cut significantly, but here is an industry that is having all of its state support eliminated. Literally, there will be no more state tourism office. It’s the 2011 equivalent of “Ford to City: Drop Dead.”

And yet rather than feeling sorry for themselves, they’re picking up the pieces and making it happen on their own.

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DIY Economic Development – The Tourism Industry Way

March 8, 2011

We live in an interesting time for the public sector. Local and state governments are struggling to allocate scarce tax dollars to a variety of important programs and needs, and often short term issues (public safety, social services) are winning out over long-term investments like higher education and economic development. Whether you think that’s the right way or the wrong way to approach it, that’s what’s happening, and so it’s interesting to see how economic development organizations are dealing with the new reality.

And one of the most interesting reactions that we’re seeing is “Fine, if you won’t help me, I’ll do it myself.” Like the tourism industry is proposing to do.

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“Don’t Eat Your Seed Corn”

July 27, 2010

The weeklong Farnborough International Airshow—one of the world’s largest aviation/aerospace events and trade shows—wrapped up this weekend in England. In total, some $47 billion worth of deals were signed during the event.

As you may have heard, there were no Washington state or county officials on hand during the show. While in years past Washington has sent substantial delegations and facilitated meetings and events at the show, this year’s budget constraints kept our leaders and economic development organizations at home. (I should note that Washington did have a booth organized and staffed by Washington’s trade representative for Europe.) Read the rest of this entry »

If You Can’t Take Seattle to Space, Bring Space to Seattle

July 26, 2010

One of my earliest posts on the Prosperity Blog was about space…specifically, making our region the center for space tourism. I mean, hey, if people are going to pay huge sums of money to get a change to fly up into the atmosphere, it might as well be from here, right?

Alas, my dreams of people coming here to leave for space have not come true. But it’s still possible that people can come here to get a pretty good taste of what that would be like… Read the rest of this entry »