Brian McGowan would like to remind you why Seattle is awesome.
Of course there’s the natural beauty, the jagged Olympic and Cascade mountains, the shifting blue-hues of Puget Sound, the emerald firs and cedars. There are the Northwest’s iconic features including coffee, technology, aerospace, grunge rock bands and rainy days. And there are the signature companies — Microsoft, Amazon, Nordstrom, Boeing, Starbucks and Costco among them.
“There have only been three companies in U.S. history that have broken $1 trillion in market value, and two of those companies [Amazon and Microsoft] are from this region,” McGowan said. “Not Chicago. Not New York. Not Los Angeles. They’re from here.”
But what really makes the Puget Sound area a standout is a little more je ne sais quoi.
“What I love most about this region and the culture of this region is it’s a place that likes to cut it’s own path. It’s not trying to be like other places. It is itself,” he said. “It’s a place that changes the way that people live around the world.”
It’s a good thing that McGowan can find so much to love about the area. Last year he took the role of president and CEO of Greater Seattle Partners (GSP). The newly launched nonprofit’s purpose is to market the region, including Seattle’s King County and Snohomish and Pierce counties to the north and south, to the outside world. The goal is to attract jobs, companies, workers and investments while also helping sell the products being made here. It’s an organization, he said, that already exists in most other cities.
“Our purpose is to make sure that our regional economy is globally competitive and growing in a sustainable and inclusive way,” McGowan said. GSP has a board comprised of private- and public-sector leaders. The organization differs from the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which is more concerned with public policy than with promoting the region.
McGowan came to the job from Atlanta where his resume includes a stint as CEO of Invest Atlanta, the economic development authority for the city. He was also in leadership at the Metro Atlanta Chamber.
For those point to Seattle’s high housing prices and homelessness crisis and ask if we really need more growth, McGowan explains that outside of the city, say in Everett and Tacoma, the economy isn’t as booming. GSP is looking for more equitable growth.
He also argues that if an area isn’t growing, it’s shrinking and that pares away the resources available to solve societal and other challenges. McGowan said that other regions this size have seen tremendous short-term growth, and then the bottom fell out.
“I’m talking about Detroit, St. Louis and Cleveland,” he said. “Those places were Seattle once.”
We caught up with McGowan for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: Downtown Seattle
Computer types: Microsoft Surface
Mobile devices: iPhone X
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: I like to bike so I use Strava a lot and my family and I are house hunting so I’ve been regularly using Zillow and Redfin. Other than that, I frequently use Waze as I’m learning my way around the region and Apple Music.
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? Nothing fancy — a desk and a conference table. I hold a lot of small meetings in my office so the conference table gets plenty of use.
We are a startup so we are currently renting space within the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce offices in Rainier Tower. It’s working right now because the Chamber is such a big supporter of what GSP is doing and they have been very flexible. But we are growing fast so we will be looking for new office space soon.
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? Focusing on your health — both physical and mental — is critical to long-term success. We all get so busy and, unfortunately, we often forget to take care of ourselves. We eat the wrong foods, don’t get enough sleep and don’t take time to rejuvenate. Fortunately we live in a place where there are a multitude of opportunities to get outside and do fun, healthy activities.
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? Probably Twitter, although I use LinkedIn and Facebook quite a bit too. I mostly use Facebook for fun things, boring pictures of my kids, dog and things I think look cool or interesting. LinkedIn and Twitter are more business and politics for me. I am trying to get my Instagram game started. The Seattle region is pretty incredible, so I like bragging about it (and yes I know “bragging” is not cool in the Pacific Northwest but someone’s got to do it). I love sharing interesting facts, figures, pictures and graphs about our economy, our businesses and our incredible quality of life.
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? That is top secret — only my wife knows the answer.
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? 27, which is a little slow thanks to summer.
How do you run meetings? I’d rather not be the one doing all the talking. I like when people are able to speak and opine freely as long as they are respectful to everyone in the room, but that also means people need to come prepared and not waste other people’s time. I work hard to create an atmosphere where everyone feels they are supported and encouraged to contribute.
Everyday work uniform? For years before moving here, I would wear a suit and tie to work every day. But after about a month of doing that in Seattle, I got tired of people making fun of me so I had to buy a whole new wardrobe! Now I usually wear jeans or khakis and a sport jacket and comfortable shoes. I love it, one of the benefits of working in the greater Seattle region.
How do you make time for family? Well, they are my world. There’s nothing I look forward to more than hanging out at home with my wife and kids. I have family in seven states and five countries so when I travel, I try to stay a few extra days to see them.
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? Mountain biking.
What are you listening to? I’m old school: Metallica, Alice in Chains, Bob Marley, Social Distortion, Johnny Cash, Stone Temple Pilots, A Tribe Called Quest and Jurassic 5. I also listen to Anderson Paak, Greta Van Fleet and Childish Gambino.
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? Politico, The Seattle Times, The Puget Sound Business Journal, Bloomberg, The Economist and Brookings.
Books on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “The Immortal Irishman” by Timothy Egan and “Triumph of the City” by Edward Glaeser
Night owl or early riser? I’m a night owl. I get my second wind just after midnight!
Where do you get your best ideas? Usually as I’m falling asleep or when I’m out on a bike. But mostly when I’m under pressure and brainstorming with my team.
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? I’ve been fortunate to have worked around some pretty amazing people during my career, but I’d like to learn more about Elon Musk’s work style. He is such an iconic, multi-tasking, big thinker. I’d love to follow him around for a day or two.