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Washington: Entrepreneurial Spirit and Diverse Industries Promise Future Recovery

Dec/Jan 10
Innovation is part of Washington's DNA," says Larry Williams, director of international trade and economic development for the Washington Department of Commerce. He adds that the Evergreen State has an established reputation for "the convergence of innovation to implementation" and touts homegrown success stories such as Boeing, Microsoft,, and Starbucks. While the recession has impacted all states' revenues, Williams says, "diversity helps us weather this and will bring us out of it quicker." A new forecast from Moody's predicts that Washington will be among the first five states to recover job growth, with recovery beginning in the fourth quarter of 2009.

This year, Forbes ranked Washington as the second-best state to do business and fifth-best regulatory climate. With no personal state income tax, Washington was also placed as the ninth-best tax climate in the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation's 2010 State Business Tax Climate Index. "Having no state income tax is important to employers," says Williams.

Future growth is focused on clean energy, such as solar and wind, and on smart-grid companies that manage existing energy options. Aerospace, a more traditional industry for Washington, is taking off into new directions such as commercial aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. Other prospective growth industries include information and communications technologies, software development, and digital media and gaming.

France-based fuel manufacturer AREVA's consolidation and expansion plans will add approximately 50 jobs to its Richland facility. With a 40-year history in Richland, AREVA was aware of "the available, well-educated and highly skilled work force, excellent support from the local community, and well-maintained, reliable, and available state and local infrastructures," says Chuck Perkins, Richland Site Manager at AREVA. "A significant factor particularly considering the age of the work force, is that the industry in the area has been working with Columbia Basin College (CBC) to implement a training program for the next generation of workers, an example of the type of local interaction and co-operation we appreciate."

In the global health industry, pacesetters such as The Gates Foundation and PATH, an international nonprofit global health organization, attract new companies that generate products and ideas for worldwide healthcare improvement. In September, Albany Molecular Research Institute (AMRI) dedicated its new Bothell Research Center, focused on early phases of drug discovery. Ronald J. O'Brien, AMRI's director of global communications, says that other states were considered, including New York, the site of the firm's headquarters, but "the cost differential in real and intangible costs was significantly higher anywhere else but in Washington State. 

Strategic location was a deciding factor for juvenile furniture manufacturer Stork Craft Manufacturing, Inc. This past August, a year after locating its distribution center in Bellingham, the firm relocated its U.S. administrative offices from Nevada to Bellingham. Jim Moore, president and CEO of Stork Craft, says the company sought its U.S. location near the Canadian border. "Our world HQ is situated in Richmond, B.C., 20 minutes from the Pacific truck crossing. Most of our executive staff is located in Richmond, and Bellingham is an easy drive for training of personnel and the setup of this entity."

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