Seattle’s tech industry titans are joining forces to advise the city on some of the pressing challenges that have arisen as a result of booming growth.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed an executive order creating the city’s first Innovation Advisory Committee at Zillow’s headquarters Thursday. She also announced the initial companies that will send delegates to sit on the council. They are Amazon, Artefact Group, Expedia Group, Flying Fish Partners, Microsoft, Tableau, the Washington Technology Industry Association and Zillow Group. Those companies have not yet announced the individuals who will sit on the council.
The council will identify opportunities where technology and data can be used to help Seattle improve its processes. For example, Durkan noted that homeless service providers often call up shelters one by one to find availability for unsheltered individuals. She said the council might recommend an app that shows shelter availability.
But Durkan was vague about what resources the companies might offer to develop such technology solutions. She didn’t say whether they would donate money or employee time but stressed that the council’s primary function will be to advise the city.
Enormous job growth in tech and other industries is drawing record numbers of newcomers to Seattle and putting a straining on housing affordability and mobility. The tech industry, in particular, has been shouldering blame for transforming the city without doing enough to mitigate the growing pains. Graffiti and signs have cropped up around Seattle targeting tech and Amazon, in particular, which is the poster child for the industry. The messages are one of the most visible signs of growing resentment toward tech.
Simmering tension boiled over earlier this year as Seattle considered a tax on its top grossing companies to fund affordable housing. The tax passed unanimously but was repealed less than a month later in a dramatic reversal that showed the influence of the business community.
Durkan has been trying to mend the relationship between tech and city government through a number of initiatives. At the event Thursday, she said that the Innovation Council was not created in response to the head tax controversy.
“We know that we’ve got to bring people together to build solutions around our hardest problems and this Innovation Council will be one of the ways we do that,” Durkan said during the press conference.