We’re Number 1 Through 10

Washington and its cities did well in several nationwide surveys this year. In fact, we easily constituted our own top 10. By Sarah Dewey

1st- Washington highest state minimum wage in the nation, $8.67/hour (U.S. Department of Labor)

2nd- Olympia 10 happiest small cities in America (Gallup)

3rd- Seattle top locations for IT startups (PayScale)

4th- Seattle best U.S. office markets (Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment)

5th- Tri-Cities top 10 real estate markets to watch (Inman News)

6th- Washington state technology and science index (Milken Institute)

7th- Jefferson Park, Seattle top public golf courses for the business consumer (

8th- Washington access to capital (in America’s top states for doing business) (CNBC)

9th- Mukilteo best places to live, small towns (CNN Money)

10th- Washington top states for entrepreneurship and innovation (U.S. Chamber of Commerce)


Ed Turner/Boeing

Better Late Than Never

There’s every reason to poke fun at Boeing’s September delivery of the 787 Dreamliner to All Nippon Airways. The plastic plane was more than three years late and a bazillion dollars over budget. (Imagine ordering a new car in 2008 and getting a call from the dealer in 2011: “Your new car’s here!”) Still, we choose to view this as a positive development, kind of in the same vein as those letters from World War II that surface mysteriously at the post office and get delivered 70 years late. Neither snow nor rain nor bad parts from Italy will stay Boeing from the swift completion of its appointed rounds. And here’s to to ANA for staying the course as the Dreamliner’s launch customer. You have to believe that kind of patience will be rewarded. Maybe extra floor mats and a free undercoating? — John Levesque


Top 10 Stocks (click to enlarge)


Street Sense
The replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel that will open up Seattle’s urban waterfront cleared a final hurdle in August when a healthy majority of voters essentially said, “Let’s start digging already!” After more than 10 years of dithering and wrangling and foot dragging, the city is now moving forward on a transportation project that will dramatically alter Seattle’s streetscape. Huzzah! — J.L.


George White/Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Good On Ya
We see boomerangs when we look at the main buildings of the new Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters complex. But the “outstretched arms” metaphor preferred by architect NBBJ also works. Local architecture critic Lawrence W. Cheek, meanwhile, calls it “a new paradigm for the 21st-century workplace.” Any way you look at it, the foundation’s prominent physical presence is a welcome addition to Seattle. — J.L.    


A Good Call

Last December, KeyBank chose not to renew its naming-rights deal for KeyArena, but Seattle Center officials said the big red sign would stay on the building until they found a new sponsor. In a down economy, that sponsor remains as elusive as, well, an NBA franchise. Talk about maximum bang for no bucks. Last time we checked, the arena was still named KeyArena, and somebody at KeyBank was looking like a marketing genius. — J.L.


High Flier

Patience is not one of Bill Ayer’s virtues. The 57-year-old chair and CEO of Alaska Air Group, parent company of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, is constantly guiding his 79-year-old airline to adapt in an ever-changing industry. Alaska has become the nation’s seventh-largest airline, with 9,600 employees, 117 airplanes and more than 400 flights a day to 61 cities in the United States, Mexico and Canada. It has been profitable 32 of the past 38 years and is especially loved by business travelers since Ayer championed a campaign that dramatically improved the company’s on-time performance rating. Ayer, a Bellevue resident, tries to stay one step ahead of competitors and doesn’t believe in ignoring problems. “Hope is not a strategy,” he says. “Focus on what you can control. Be realistic about current problems, yet optimistic about solving them.” — Karen West


University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, UW 957

Here’s to the Next 150

Though it seems hard to imagine from inside the sleek, sumptuous Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle, the University of Washington began on a 10-acre piece of land in that location 150 years ago. Today, the university has nearly 30,000 employees and contributes billions of dollars to the state economy. The first class of 30 students began study at the Territorial University of Washington on November 4, 1861. The school’s first president, Asa Shinn Mercer, also served as the only faculty member at the institution and helped construct the school’s first building. Much has changed since then. A July 2010 report by Tripp Umbach revealed that the University of Washington, which moved to its current location in 1895, had an economic impact of $9.1 billion annually and was responsible for nearly 70,000 full-time jobs. Students and faculty have founded more than 250 companies and the university currently has more than 2,200 patents issued or pending. A study by China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University rated the university as 16th best in the world. For more 150th anniversary events, visit Celebrations will continue during the course of the academic year. — Anthony Adragna

[more anniversaries]
2011 also marked …
➔ the 150th anniversary of John Pinnell (or Pennell, according to some sources) establishing the first brothel in Seattle.
➔ the 125th anniversary of representatives of Thomas Edison demonstrating the first electrical generator in Seattle (Pioneer Square), powering the first incandescent light bulb to shine west of the Rockies.
➔ the 100th anniversary of the Washington State Senate approving legislation to limit women’s employment to eight hours a day, with the exclusion of fishery and cannery workers.
➔ the 75th anniversary of Eddie Bauer inventing the down parka.
➔ the 50th anniversary of the launch of Boeing’s first Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile from Cape Canaveral. — J.L.



Solid Footing
Granted, SOUNDERS FC seems to have a difficult time advancing past the first round of the playoffs. But it’s still pretty easy to call the Sounders’ 2011 season—their third in Major League Soccer—an impressive success. Consider: a third consecutive Open Cup, another MLS attendance record, a team record for total victories, a sendoff game for goalkeeper Kasey Keller that will resonate in Seattle sports lore for years. Here’s to owners Joe Roth, Adrian Hanauer, Paul Allen and Drew Carey for creating a sports business worth emulating, and to head coach Sigi Schmid for managing a team that makes Seattle proud. — J.L. 




Great Ideas
Meet our Top Innovators for 2011. By Sarah Dewey

Brian Glaister, Cadence Biomedical
Cadence Biomedical is creating a kinetic orthosis (see photo above), using a series of “exotendons” to help people with lower-limb disabilities regain mobility. Developed in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic, the company’s devices fit around each leg like a brace and employ a series of springs to capture and reuse energy. As the user takes a step, energy is stored at the outset and released at the end to propel the person forward. The devices have been well received by patients with partial paralysis; CEO Brian Glaister anticipates a market release in the second quarter of 2012 and hopes to work with insurance companies to help offset the cost.

Chie Kawahara/Cadence Biomedical

Oren Etzioni & Mike Fridgen,
The gurus behind Farecast have done it again. Oren Etzioni and Mike Fridgen, whose ticket-price-optimizing website was acquired by Microsoft in 2008, have applied their predictive powers to launch Decide helps users navigate the dynamic pricing of consumer electronics by not only tracking numerical data such as historical prices and the cost of related goods, but also by extracting and analyzing information from the web’s myriad review sites. Etzioni and Fridgen are excited to take Decide mobile with an app that allows users to blur the line further between in-store purchasing and online decision making.

Luis Ceze, UW/Corensic
Computer architect Luis Ceze is revamping the philosophy of computing by devising new programming techniques that save energy, by redesigning systems to crunch large-scale graphs such as social networks, and by debugging parallel programming. Until now, programmers were concerned mainly with speed and accuracy; now they are able to make their systems energy efficient while maintaining statistical precision. Ceze’s company, Corensic, offers its Jinx product to programmers trying to eliminate errors in their parallel systems. Parallel programs, while faster, are more prone to bugs than sequential programs because of poor coordination between processes happening simultaneously, says Ceze. But he’s not just helping out the pros: Programming in parallel is becoming mainstream as many consumer electronics, such as the iPhone, begin to use multiple processors.
Having presaged the so-called “tablet wars” with its Kindle e-reader four years ago, Seattle’s Amazon.COM has continued to adapt and refine its web-based business model while integrating new hardware with its cloud-hosting services. This year saw many of Amazon’s Kindle products dip to a two-digit price point as it released the Kindle Fire tablet and a new web browser, Silk. The browser anticipates what content to preload based on aggregated browsing history, employing many of the same algorithms Amazon’s marketplace uses to generate product recommendations.

Desney Tan, Microsoft
Driven by his varied background—aerospace engineer, philosopher, theologian, computer scientist—Desney Tan has been working with collaborators at Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Washington to transform human-computer interactions beyond the traditional desktop interface. Using gesture motions and humans’ natural interactions with their environment, Tan and his teams hope to make human-computer interaction seamless and accessible. One of the projects to come out of this desire is Skinput, in which a user’s arm is turned into a touch-sensitive surface through electrical tracking of finger movements. Another is the use of the body as an antenna, by which electrical signals traveling through the body can help observers track the body’s posture and motions with only a single point of connection to the body.

Yaw Anokwa, University of Washington

As a Ph.D. candidate at the UW, Yaw Anokwa made waves by collaborating with colleagues to address technological “leapfrogging”—situations where people have access to mobile technology but not basic sanitation or electricity—and bringing open-source electronic medical records to many countries. Anokwa has also created cloud-based tools for using the Open Data Kit, a mobile data- collection suite.