Editor's Note: What It Takes to Compete

Without more middle-income jobs, Seattle faces a tough climb.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

In a global competitiveness ranking of nine midsize cities by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Seattle has fallen one notch — to sixth place — from 2013 to 2015, and Singapore has overtaken San Francisco to become first. Seattle performs poorly in education, infrastructure and finance. But another reason for its weakness is rising inequality.

While there was a 19 percent increase in high-income jobs in the region from 2005 to 2013, and a more than 5 percent increase in low-wage jobs, the number of workers earning a middle income between $35,000 and $75,000 declined by 7,000. That trend continues, says John Wenstrup, managing director at BCG’s Seattle office, and it hurts Seattle’s standing in BCG’s ranking system.  

We all understand the high human cost of having fewer people with living-wage jobs; what’s less understood is how the high economic costs of inequality  strongly argue for investing substantial sums to reverse the trend.

PROSPERITY: Middle-class jobs raise per-capita income and allow for social mobility — the notion that anybody can get ahead if they just work hard enough. The middle class also happens to be the largest source of the entrepreneurs so important to our region.

HEALTH AND SOCIAL STABILITY: Studies show that communities with high-income disparities tend to suffer more health problems, leading to more homicides, obesity and mental illness. That reduces productivity and the quality of life, which, in turn, can  make it harder for our companies to attract the talent they need. 

RESILIENCE: Today, Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon and the University of Washington account for 30 percent of our jobs and 50 percent of our wages. A decline in fortunes at any one of those organizations, important sources of family-wage jobs, would deal a big blow to the region’s economy. 

So, if middle-income jobs are so important, how do we create more of them?

One answer is to train workers for the jobs that are available today in such industries as maritime, manufacturing, health care and technology. That means preparing our students better for college and vocational schools. Today, only 39 percent of our high school students go to college, putting us 47th in the nation. We must also train workers for emerging needs such as installing and repairing the smart-home systems that will soon connect home appliances to the internet, and providing wellness coaching and other services needed in a health-care system increasingly focused on preventive care. 

Another approach is attracting more national and global companies to the Seattle region in areas such as manufacturing and professional services, as the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County is seeking to do. These outposts would not only create more middle-income jobs and better anchor us in the global economy, but also would diversify our economy and help us weather future downturns.

Additionally, supporting those middle-income families requires providing reasonable health care, affordable housing, child care and transportation options. All these efforts are expensive, but if they lead to a stronger community and a more robust economy, they will be well worth the investment. It’s been Singapore’s path to a stronger economy. It’s a path we should follow, too.

HEALTH AND SOCIAL STABILITY: Studies show that communities with high-income disparities tend to suffer more health problems, leading to more homicides, obesity and mental illness. That reduces productivity and the quality of life, which, in turn, can  make it harder for our companies to attract the talent they need. 

RESILIENCE: Today, Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon and the University of Washington account for 30 percent of our jobs and 50 percent of our wages. A decline in fortunes at any one of those organizations, important sources of family-wage jobs, would deal a big blow to the region’s economy. 

So, if middle-income jobs are so important, how do we create more of them?

One answer is to train workers for the jobs that are available today in such industries as maritime, manufacturing, health care and technology. That means preparing our students better for college and vocational schools. Today, only 39 percent of our high school students go to college, putting us 47th in the nation. We must also train workers for emerging needs such as installing and repairing the smart-home systems that will soon connect home appliances to the internet, and providing wellness coaching and other services needed in a health-care system increasingly focused on preventive care. 

Another approach is attracting more national and global companies to the Seattle region in areas such as manufacturing and professional services, as the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County is seeking to do. These outposts would not only create more middle-income jobs and better anchor us in the global economy, but also would diversify our economy and help us weather future downturns.

Additionally, supporting those middle-income families requires providing reasonable health care, affordable housing, child care and transportation options. All these efforts are expensive, but if they lead to a stronger community and a more robust economy, they will be well worth the investment. It’s been Singapore’s path to a stronger economy. It’s a path we should follow, too.

Final Analysis: Would You Go to Work for Donald Trump?

Final Analysis: Would You Go to Work for Donald Trump?

Or would you rather end up on his enemies list?
 
 

Imagine getting a call inviting you to work for your country.

Now imagine your new boss is Donald J. Trump.

Would you move to Washington, D.C., to work for the president of the United States? For this president of the United States?

From what we know through simple observation, Donald Trump suffers from chronic narcissism, he doesn’t read much, he rarely smiles, he has a vindictive streak, he treats women badly, he has the argumentative skills of a bruised tangerine, he fears foreigners almost as much as he fears the truth and he spends his waking hours attached to marionette strings being manipulated by Steve “I Shave on Alternate Thursdays” Bannon.

Sure, you’ve probably suffered under bad bosses. But this guy takes the plagiarized inauguration cake. He thinks it’s OK to assault women. He made fun of a journalist’s disability. He said a judge couldn’t be impartial because of his ethnic heritage. He doesn’t pay people who have done work for him. He has been a plaintiff in nearly 2,000 lawsuits.

We have to assume that Sally Yates, the acting attorney general who got herself fired in January for standing up to President Trump’s ban on accepting immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries, has probably updated her résumé by now. No doubt she proudly included a mention that she torched the president whose approval rating after one week in office had dropped faster than it had for anchovy-swirl ice cream.

If I worked for Trump, it would most likely be a challenging assignment. I try to be gracious and diplomatic with supervisors and coworkers, but I draw the line with people who lie to me. Or lie to others and put me in an awkward position. With them, I’m not so gracious, and I don’t hold my tongue. Which would probably get me early induction into the Sally Yates Hall of Flame.

Or maybe on the president’s enemies list. None other than Trump’s reality-TV pal, Omarosa Manigault, has revealed that the president possesses a long memory — longer, even, than his neckties — and that his people are “keeping a list” of those who don’t like him.

I know I should give my president the benefit of the doubt, but I’m happy to make an exception in this case. I don’t like Donald Trump. And I would be honored to be on his enemies list. Not since I played pickup baseball in grade school have I had such an urge to scream, “Pick me! Pick me!” Being added to a Presidential Enemies List would be such a treat, a career topper, really. Better than submitting to a colonoscopy without anesthesia. Or watching reruns of Celebrity Apprentice. Without anesthesia.

If selected, I would pledge to save my best words for the president and I would only use them in the bigliest way.

Of course, making the enemies list means I might never get the call to join the new administration. I might never get to engage in locker-room banter with POTUS. I might never get to untangle the marionette strings. I might never get to buy razors for Steve Bannon.

It is a sobering realization. But we must serve where we are best suited.

John Levesque is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine. Reach him at john.levesque@tigeroak.com.