A Tuna Salad Company, A Seafood Company or a Canned Goods Company?

April 2, 2011

That’s the old Branding 101 example of “you are what you say you are.” The idea being that Starkist or Bumblebee will be most successful expanding their product offerings if it fits in with a defined brand that people understand. You might be open to buying Starkist brand canned salmon or even Bumblebee fresh tuna steaks. Conversely, you probably wouldn’t want to buy tuna fish from a motor oil company, just because they branded themselves as a business that “makes things in containers.” So there are limits to everything.

We see a lot of that going on in our region. Boeing isn’t an “airplane company,” but rather an aerospace company and so you’re open to buying their tankers, and satellites and missiles. Microsoft is very much in the middle of defining themselves as a “platform company” that provides the tools upon which you create – whether that be word documents, video games, mobile apps or building energy management software.

These are the things that I thought of when I saw this article about BMW investing in IT start-ups as a way to facilitate defining themselves as a “mobility company.” Is this more Chicken of the Sea canned salmon or Pennzoil tuna?*

Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly B-MOW: Ride the Bus for the Good of International Trade

February 28, 2011

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!

Read the rest of this entry »

Is 520 Tolling Good for the Bellevue Arts Community?

May 27, 2010

I was in a focus group the other day about the future of the “east King County arts community.” And someone was talking about how the major problem is that too many eastside residents look to Seattle for their cultural activities…but that it might change when tolling starts on 520. It took me a second, but I quickly understood that what she was saying is that the extra cost of crossing the bridge would be a disincentive to travel which creates an incentive to spend your Saturday night locally. Furthermore, because there isn’t a fully vital arts community yet on the eastside, economic theory would tell us that folks would be willing to invest in the short term to build that infrastructure if it saves them money in the long term.

I love the concept, and not only because I’m a nerdy economics guy. It has a great parallel to something I was talking about way back in the good old days of $4 gas about shrinking the global supply chain. Read the rest of this entry »

More Like “Kill The Sack”

December 23, 2009

I realize that land use and transportation policy isn’t often the topic on this blog. But I’ve been studying up on my planning to fit in better here at the old PSRC, and this article caught my eye:

But this fall, Virginia, under the leadership of Gov. Tim Kaine, became the first state to severely limit cul-de-sacs from future developments. New rules require that all new subdivisions attain a certain level of “connectivity,” with ample through streets connecting them to other neighborhoods and nearby commercial areas. If subdivisions fail to comply, Virginia won’t provide maintenance and snowplow services, a big disincentive in a state where the government provides 83 percent of road services.

Virginia expects the new rules to relieve its strained infrastructure budget: through streets are more efficient and cheaper to maintain, and they take pressure off arterial roads that otherwise need to be widened. “It’s about connecting land-use and transportation planning and restricting wasteful and unplanned development,” Kaine said in March. [emphasis added]

Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Throw Away That Project List!

December 7, 2009

As conversations continue to advance about a “jobs bill” (not to be confused with a “second stimulus” in any way), there are a lot of ideas floating around out there about what should be funded and how. But probably the biggest criteria is when, as in “as soon as possible;” the long timeline of Recovery Act fund distribution is not going to be tolerated for this go around. But, let’s not throw away the baby with the bathwater! Read the rest of this entry »

How to Build a Cross-Base Highway

December 4, 2009

Pierce County’s long awaited and continually delayed Cross-Base Highway (SR 704) keeps looking for a solution to a need long overdue. For a project that started with a donation of right-of-way worth millions of dollars by Ft. Lewis, that head start in funding hasn’t made much progress against other state-wide projects that keep bumping the Cross-Base Highway.

As Fort Lewis is a work site that has gained 13,000 workers in the last demi-decade and seen a daily increase in thousands of vehicle trips, soldiers taking housing outside the post are continuing to seek housing in Thurston County as closer Pierce County housing is inaccessible via the congestion along the Pacific Ave.-SR 512-I-5 route, located in Parkland-Spanaway. Who hasn’t noticed the increase in congestion on I-5 south of the post as soldiers commute back and forth to Thurston County?

But is our challenge so unique that we must create a solution, or is experience available elsewhere. Of course! We are not unique! Others have solved this problem! Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Anniversary, Recovery Act!

November 13, 2009

They grow up so fast…it seems like only yesterday that Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In fact, it was not yesterday, but rather February 13, 2009. (The President signed it four days later.) Which makes today the nine month anniversary!

Even after all this time, there are actually a number of major opportunities still open. On this happy day, here are a few to keep an eye on (or apply for!): Read the rest of this entry »

Up, Up and Away

October 20, 2009

Never to be accused of being a pessimist, I return after a long absence in these here parts with good news: Delta Airlines is not adding one but two new international routes to Sea-Tac Airport and expanding on another one.  Beginning in the summer of 2010, Delta will begin flying to Beijing, China and Osaka, Japan which just happen to be important cities of two of our region’s largest trading partners.  In addition, Delta is increasing the number of flights to Amsterdam per week from seven to ten (making it easier for Jules to get his Royale with Cheese).

As a sometimes frequent international traveler, this can only make my life better. And, isn’t that what we’re all here for? A side benefit, of course, is that because our region is so tied to the international economy, it’s going to make lots of other Puget Sounders’ lives better too.  It will strengthen our internationally-bent economy making it easier for our businesses to welcome their overseas customers and to travel to important markets. It will also make it easier for Chinese investors and tourists (of which we are seeing more lately; Japan is already one of our largest sources for tourists and investment) to spend their money here.

I’ve got the Delta Blues, in a good way.

Riffing on RIF

October 8, 2009

News flash:

Making the benefits of TOD available to residents at all income levels is a significant policy challenge. There is a long-term shortage of affordable housing in many cities, and existing affordable housing near transit may be lost as federal subsidies expire.

Or maybe it’s not really news.  Read the rest of this entry »

Transportation and the Economy

August 5, 2009

As you know, PSRC is engaging in a new planning process to create Transportation 2040. They’re using all sorts of metrics to measure the effects of different alternatives on our region, and not just transportation-specific ones like effect on congestion and reliability, but also effect on climate change and human health. Of course, all that we at the Prosperity Blog care about is the effect of different transportation system alternatives on the economy, but it turns out to be a more complicated question than you might think, even with all our fancy modeling tools and benefit-cost analyses. Read the rest of this entry »

Have You Driven a Ford Lately?

July 15, 2009

I still can’t get over how cool it is that Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mullaly is going to be the keynote speaker at the Prosperity Partnership Fall Luncheon on November 13.  But it’s not just the fact that he used to work in the region and now he’s in the Time 100. It’s that he can talk about a major national economic shift that has the potential to be huge in the central Puget Sound in two ways: Read the rest of this entry »

Take Me Home, Country Road

July 9, 2009

So, it looks like urban areas are getting “shortchanged” in stimulus transportation dollars:

Two-thirds of the country lives in large metropolitan areas, home to the nation’s worst traffic jams and some of its oldest roads and bridges. But cities and their surrounding regions are getting far less than two-thirds of federal transportation stimulus money. According to an analysis by The New York Times of 5,274 transportation projects approved so far — the most complete look yet at how states plan to spend their stimulus money — the 100 largest metropolitan areas are getting less than half the money from the biggest pot of transportation stimulus money.

A lot of folks have been complaining in this state about how WSDOT peanut buttered the money around, and apparently that’s pretty typical.  According to the NYT, more than half of the stimulus money will be spent on “pavement improvement” projects, mostly repaving rutted and potholed roads. Read the rest of this entry »

Year 2040 will be here sooner than you think…

July 6, 2009

PSRC recently released a draft environmental impact statement for Transportation 2040. If you haven’t already, take a look at the document and provide comments.  Or just learn more about environmental, economic and other impacts of six different scenarios for our region’s transportation system over the next 30 years.  What do you think about transportation user fees to maintain, operate and enhance the future system for central Puget Sound region?

Let your voice be heard!

Tilting at High Speed Rail

July 1, 2009

I finally got around to finishing the New York Times Sunday Magazine on “Infrastructure,” which was a little disappointing…partly because the newly shrunk format just doesn’t have as much content, partly because they didn’t pick the most compelling angles on infrastructure.  Speaking as an infrastructure nerd, it didn’t meet my high standards.  But it did have an article on everyone’s favorite topic, high speed rail. And by everyone’s favorite topic, I mean “next stop, controversy city!” Read the rest of this entry »

What’s So Great about High Speed Rail?

June 5, 2009

I see that everyone is really excited about the $8 billion in the stimulus package that is a “down payment” on a national high speed rail network. And there’s already talk of further investment. But is this really going to change how people travel long distances in our country?

I grew up on the east coast, where Amtrak is a regular part of a lot of people’s travel. Philly to New York or DC was actually a daily commuting pattern for some people…even NYC to to DC on a semi-regular basis. It was convenient, more or less faster than driving and it actually drove down the cost of airfare between those cities as well since it was a legitimate competitor.

But out here, cities are further apart…really further. New York to DC ain’t got nothin’ on Seattle to San Francisco, and even at 200 miles per hour you’re probably not living in one city and working in another. Maybe Seattle to Vancouver or Portland, but daily nonstops on Horizon air from SeaTac to PDX are like every half hour or something. Will a high speed train get people out of cars or plane and/or serve as a legitimate competitor in transportation options?

I’m sure our friends at Orphan Road have a strong opinion on the subject, but I’d love to hear some thoughts!