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Seattle traffic along 2nd Avenue. (Photo via Oran Viri)
Seattle traffic along 2nd Avenue. (Photo via Oran Viri)

Seattle is growing at an unprecedented rate, with the Puget Sound region adding an average of roughly nine new jobs and seven new people per hour in 2015. Tech is a major driver of this growth and is sharply impacted by it.

Jeff Shulman, UW professor and host of the new Seattle Growth Podcast.
Jeff Shulman, UW professor and host of the new Seattle Growth Podcast.

The topic of growth in Seattle can be quite polarizing. Though the city’s rapid changes bring about mixed emotions for many residents, I’ve observed a tendency to draw battle lines between a pro-growth camp and an anti-growth camp. Building a productive dialog between these camps can be a challenge as passions and tempers often flare. However, a conversation is necessary since the city of Seattle, its diverse community, and its tech sector are all part of an interdependent system.

In hopes of building a productive dialog among Seattle’s community members, I set out on a journey to learn what growth means to Seattle’s residents, businesses, and city leaders. My journey started with interviewing Steve in the Knarr Bar and led me to the mayor’s office to interview Ed Murray, with over 100 interviews in between. What started as a personal curiosity, culminated in the Seattle Growth Podcast, a 13-episode look at how Seattle’s growth affects everyone and everything connected to the city.

Listen to the first episode below.

Through the podcast interviews, it became clear that the city and the tech community mutually impact one another.

As part of the interdependent system, Seattle has been a draw in helping companies attract talent. Many credit Seattle’s diverse culture and its natural beauty of water, mountains, and green surroundings for making the city an attractive place to live and work.

“People from Palo Alto and Chicago come here, see the city, and they just fall in love with it. They think ‘I’d love to work here,'” said Vinayak Hegde, Chief Marketing Officer of Chicago-based Groupon, which operates offices in Seattle and Palo Alto.

In turn, Seattle tech is bringing people and prosperity to the city.

Chris Devore. (GeekWire File Photo.)
Chris Devore

“We’ve had growth in Seattle largely because of great entrepreneurs choosing to build companies here that were magnetic to talent. We weren’t just providing jobs for locals, we were drawing leadership and talent in from around the world,” said Chris DeVore, founding partner of Founders’ Co-Op.

The influx of people and money associated with Seattle tech is having a far-reaching impact on the city. From housing affordability to schools, healthcare, and the transportation network, many aspects of Seattle life are affected by growth.

Changes to the city, in turn, have a profound impact on Seattle tech. Seattle’s growth “creates a recruitment and retention challenge” for tech leaders, as noted by Hegde.

Garmentory CEO Sunil Gowda
Garmentory CEO Sunil Gowda

“I think housing affordability and transportation, speaking for myself and my employees, would be the two biggest issues,” Sunil Gowda, founder of Garmentory, said in the podcast. “I think gone are the days of people young in their career being able to afford a home within the city. So they are either moving out or continuing to rent, which affects their lifestyle…We feel like we are missing out on some talent because of unaffordability.”

The future of Seattle is in flux. Proposals are underway to change the nature of single-family residential neighborhoods, to build new urban centers in areas such as the University District, and to expand public transit. Seattle public schools and the region’s hospitals will need more capacity to avoid overcrowding as the region continues to grow. These changes will directly affect tech offices’ ability to recruit and retain talent from other regions in the country and around the world.

The livability of Seattle directly affects a tech office’s employees and as a consequence impacts the company bottom line. It is critical for tech leaders to join the conversation about the future of Seattle to ensure the city continues to be an attractive place to live and work.

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