Though they exist on opposite ends of the country, Seattle and Boston actually share quite a few similarities that extend beyond being home to top NFL teams (well, for one city, that title is now debatable).
Both cities have robust technology ecosystems made up of big corporations and small startups alike. As a result, both are dealing with similar growing pains related to housing affordability, transportation infrastructure, and much more.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh met today in the Emerald City at Zillow Group, the online real estate company headquartered in downtown Seattle. Executives from Zillow, Facebook, Google, Porch, and Microsoft joined the politicians for a private discussion about how their fast-growing cities can provide a place for technology companies to thrive while maintaining a high quality of life for all citizens.
The talk focused on affordable housing — Zillow shared its own housing market data for specific cities — particularly as transplants move to each city to work for high-paying tech companies. They also chatted about how tech companies should work with their local governments to attract more tech workers and how companies and their employees can be more involved in civic life — a topic recently discussed on GeekWire with elections in Seattle coming next month.
Afterward, Murray, Walsh, and Zillow held a short press conference.
“We had a great conversation today about how our cities face similar challenges and opportunities — cities that are growing fast with vibrant economies, cities where jobs are coming back,” Murray said. “But with growth comes challenges.”
Murray added that it’s more important than ever for tech companies and employees to get involved with civic life.
“Seattle is growing — 70,000 people in the last five years, 63,000 jobs, mostly in the tech area,” said the mayor, who took office in January 2014. “Those folks that are moving to the city want to live in the city, they want to be able to take a bus or light rail, they want to walk to work, to the park, to the grocery store. We need those folks in the IT world to be involved in government and politics and be that voice because there are other voices that say no more transit, no more bike lanes.”
Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries echoed those thoughts and said that there are steps Seattle can take — both from the private and public sides — to help avoid some of what’s going on in the Bay Area related to housing affordability.
“The lack of affordability in the Bay Area does create real competitive issues with the ability to attract talent to places like Seattle, Boston, or Austin that have lower cost of housing,” Humphries said. “We want to make sure our cities provide affordable housing because it’s important for companies.”
Walsh noted how his office is using more and more technology to make data-driven decisions and is looking to tech companies to help improve city-related issues like issuing housing permits.
“It is so important for the tech community to get involved with government,” he said.
Walsh also noted that he had some Starbucks and “got a fish thrown at me” at Pike Place Market before coming to Zillow. “It was good,” said Walsh, who added that the Seahawks fans he’d run into were “very classy people.”