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Digital Media, Life Sciences, Aerospace Lead Washington's Economic Sector Development

Mali R. Schantz-Feld (Dec/Jan 09)
"We have created over 225,000 jobs since 2005, resulting in a robust business climate, strong industries, growing clusters, and a reputation for innovation and invention that helps attract companies," says Larry Williams, assistant director of international trade and economic development. He cites the state's recent third-place ranking on Forbes Best States for Business list, a jump from fifth place last year. Washington's diverse industry sectors include life sciences and global health, aerospace, clean technology, and information and communication technology (ICT).

Life sciences, especially driven by research and development in medical products, and medical devices, is fostered by such entities as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PATH, and the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute. Besides research, these facilities "are helping to solve global health problems by developing inoculations for emerging and epidemic diseases, like AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria," says Williams.

Aerospace continues to reach new highs, in large part due activities at Boeing's largest facility, Boeing Commercial in Everett. Williams says that aircraft exports reached about $42 billion in 2007, a 27 percent increase over 2006, and that 600 companies employ over 100,000 people in this niche. To encourage this sector, Washington's tax structure includes a reduction in the Business and Occupation tax for the manufacture or sale of commercial airplanes or component products.

The Evergreen State also has developed a commitment to clean technologies that support the green economy and green collar jobs. Biofuels and harnessing of solar energy have spurred several projects. Biofuels is centered on production of E-85, and fuels from feedstock and wood biomass. Williams points to Infinia Corporation in Kennewick, involved in solar power generation solutions, and REC Silicon, the world's largest dedicated producer of silicon materials for the photovoltaic industry in Moses Lake, as leaders in alternative energy. Also, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland "provides research for the development of many green products, working with hydrogen, longer life cells and other products," says Williams.

The ICT category includes digital media, a growing sector that includes gaming, special effects, distribution of media content, and film production and distribution. Williams says that "digital media was worth $4.6 billion in 2006 in direct economic impact to the state." Although much of the action is located in the Puget Sound region, ICT projects resonate across Washington. Williams notes that this industry's leaders include Microsoft Game Studios (developer of Xbox); Nintendo, RealGames (a division of RealNetworks), Warner Brothers, Disney, and Big Fish.

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