For the past few years, I’ve been kicking around a theory that relates to the city that I love, this wonderful place that I’ve called home for more than two decades.
I call it the west coast “megalopolis.”
There’s something big happening in Seattle, and it goes beyond the construction cranes that dot the urban landscape. It’s much more than the redevelopment of the Seattle waterfront, or the breakthrough of Bertha.
Over the past five years, we’ve seen a fascinating connection between two high-tech cities: Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area. Many don’t even see the bonds quite yet, since the physical connection points are not obvious.
But money, talent and ideas now flow between the two regions like water through Deception Pass. No matter how hard you try, you can’t stop the flow now.
Perhaps there’s no better example of this trend than the Engineering Center list that GeekWire created a few years ago to track the arrival of Silicon Valley tech giants, ranging from Apple and Airbnb to Snapchat and Salesforce. The list now stands at nearly 90 companies. Recent studies also have dug into the migration patterns of those fleeing Silicon Valley to Seattle, chasing a higher quality of life and cheaper home prices.
The connections go the other way, too. Amazon and Microsoft have growing operations in Silicon Valley.
Of course, this new development has good and bad ramifications, and it’s creating all sorts of interesting dynamics politically, economically and socially.
But the blurring of the line between Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area is real, especially when it comes to the booming tech economies in both regions.
This concept struck me today after taking in a wonderfully written piece in The Economist titled “Silicon Valley North.”
While Seattleites will chafe at that title, the substance of the piece is right on the mark.
The piece — which quotes Chris DeVore of TechStars; Ed Lazowska of The University of Washington and yours truly — notes that Seattle and Silicon Valley are increasingly “joined at the hip.” Zillow and Expedia co-founder Rich Barton, who is also quoted in the piece and has talked about Silicon Valley as Seattle’s “big brother,” even goes so far as to press for a high speed rail line to connect the two high-tech ports, and somewhat jokingly suggests a secession plan.
All of this points to one common theme: There’s a West Coast “megalopolis” forming around us, and many of our neighbors in Magnolia, Ballard and West Seattle, not to mention those 800 miles to the south don’t see it yet.