Foreign investment from the life sciences industry is also impacting the region. Irish-based Shire has invested $150 million and is bringing 300 full-time jobs to San Diego. These investments complement the economic impact of natural resource exploration in the region.
Natural Resource Exploration
Nowhere is this truer than in Alaska. After a preparation period that lasted more than four years, Alaska has high hopes stemming from Shell’s exploration in the Beaufort Sea off the state’s North Slope, beginning in late summer 2012. The $4 billion drilling program is one of the largest in Alaska in years. State officials sought to give a boost to oil exploration when they passed a total of $32.5 million in oil and gas production tax credits for exploration north of Cook Inlet and south of the North Slope.
Energy also played a major role in Oregon development, although there it took the form of hydropower. The data center industry has generated significant growth in Oregon fueled, literally, by the Columbia River and the robust hydro system it makes possible. Top data companies including Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Adobe, Biowest, and Digital Reality have all made recent major advances and expansions in Oregon — with combined investments totaling between $800 million and $1 billion, according to Jill Miles, national business recruitment officer for the state. And, although the data centers have not generated major employment (with the exception of Google, which is a large Oregon employer), the state has benefited from significant taxes paid on the high-value servers used in the data centers.
Hydropower is also helping to attract projects in the food-processing industry. Miles says she is working on five different deals to cement new construction or expansion projects in food processing. “It was steady during the recession, and now it’s peaking,” Miles says.
And Alaska’s seafood industry, which has been the object of a concerted conservation management effort, has produced results. The state supplies half of all the seafood consumed in the United States and has been a strong performer, buoyed by rising demand both domestically and from China, as well as by a program of sustainable fisheries management led by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
Technologically Adept Work Force
While natural resources and raw materials power much of the economy in the Pacific region, an exception is the state of Washington. One of the biggest economic stories there has been in the area of advanced materials, according to James Palmer, development manager for the Washington State Department of Commerce.
“It’s a confluence of a couple of things,” Palmer says. “We have the largest consumer of the product here in our state, which is Boeing, and we’ve also been attracting across aerospace and automotive.”
Palmer was part of a team that recruited SGL — a BMW partner company specializing in carbon fiber — to open a new carbon fiber manufacturing facility in Moses Lake. It represented an investment of $100 million and the creation of 80 new jobs. Now, the company has committed to building a second production line to increase capacity.
Boeing itself committed to build its new 767 Max in Washington after a high-profile flirtation with South Carolina. In the aftermath of that decision, major Boeing suppliers Triumph and Taray also announced they would expand in Washington. Palmer says the familiarity of Washington’s work force with advanced materials provides a distinct advantage. “We’ve been making airplanes here in Washington for 100 years,” Palmer notes. “We’ve developed a deep and robust labor force around that technical expertise.”
Along with Boeing’s investment, several other foreign investors added to the vibrancy of the region, including:
- German-based Zollner Electronics, bringing a $17 million investment and 300 new jobs to Milpatis, California
- Japan-based Mori Seiki, which established a manufacturing facility in Davis, California, that represents $33 million and the creation of 45 new jobs
- Korean-based Youil Ensys Corp., which builds solar tracking systems, establishing a small manufacturing facility in Sacramento, California