Last week, the Seattle Metro Chamber and Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) led a delegation of senior-level government, business, and civic leaders from our region to explore the innovation and economic development happening right here in our own backyard, while developing stronger, more productive relationships with local leaders.
The trip began with a conversation with Eastside elected officials: Kirkland Mayor Amy Whalen, Bellevue Mayor John Chelminiak, and Redmond Mayor John Marchione discussed a range of issues including housing affordability, homelessness, and regional transportation.
The Mayors highlighted our region’s economic strength, noting that outside of Seattle, people do not distinguish between the borders of Redmond and Seattle, they view it simply as one Seattle metropolitan region. “Our economic competition isn’t Kirkland or Bellevue—it’s Austin and Boston and international cities,” Mayor Marchione told the group.
The three Mayors also expressed support for a focused, regional approach to the growing homelessness problem, noting that there is a lot of work to be done. Mayor Whalen said she was happy to see One Table’s work resume and expressed her hope that this will refocus the region’s approach.
Next, the group traveled to Bellevue’s new Downtown Park, a 20-acre park in the heart of the city, for a walking tour where they heard from Bradley Calvert, the City of Bellevue’s Community Development Program Manager, and Joshua Heim, the City’s Arts Program Manager about Bellevue’s ongoing work to activate the growing downtown core.
Over lunch, delegates learned about the City of Bellevue’s participation in the White House’s Smart Cities initiative, the progress they have made, and the innovative technologies and solutions they plan to apply in the coming years. The City is hopeful that this approach will have tremendous impact around access to wireless Internet, transportation, water and energy usage, and public safety.
Next, the group toured the 87,000 square foot lab at Intellectual Ventures, an invention capital company that owns one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing intellectual property portfolios. Through their Global Good initiative, funded by Bill Gates, researchers are hard at work trying to solve the world’s toughest problems in global health and development through invention.
To close the first day, the group got a sneak peek into the upcoming development of the Spring District—an urban, transit-oriented neighborhood which will consist of 3.75 million square feet of office space, 900 homes, a hotel, retail, parks, and the East Link light rail station when the project is completed. They then split into smaller groups for guided tours of the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), a global partnership between major research universities and innovative corporations to develop leaders in innovation, and the Swire Coca-Cola bottling facility.
Day two began with a trip to the Sammamish River Valley. The Sammamish River Valley – one of King County’s five Agricultural Production Districts (APDs) – is home to some of the best fresh-produce farmland in the region, as well as a rapidly growing wine and brewing tourism industry. The expansion of wineries and breweries has come into direct conflict with agricultural preservation efforts in recent years. Local leaders are concerned that further development in these industries will hasten the conversion of the valley’s remaining farmland into more profitable, but less green, uses. The delegation heard how leaders at the County and in the community are working to resolve this issue to promote a healthy balance between economic development and land preservation in rural King County.
Next, the group traveled to the University of Washington Bothell where they learned about the life science hub. Bothell is home to an impressive 30 biotech and medical device companies that employ about 4,000 people. Delegates learned how the City of Bothell is working to attract and developing this cluster.
The group’s final stop was at Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, where the delegation spoke with company leaders about advances in cybersecurity.
This study mission is one example of how the Chamber brings business and civic leaders together to delve into regional issues together, in addition to our international and domestic study missions as well as our annual Regional Leadership Conference. For more information about how you can get involved in these opportunities, please contact Gabriella Buono, the Chamber’s vice president of events and programs.