The FINANCIAL -- The
greater Seattle region is a sophisticated, diverse, and vibrant
international metropolis with the potential to become one of the best
medium-sized economies in the world if leaders address core challenges
to its competitiveness.
This is one of the findings of a recent study presented by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
“Seattle starts from a position of strength, and its future is quite bright," said John Wenstrup, a Seattle-based partner at BCG and coauthor of the study. “However, regional leaders know there are issues to address. Thankfully, there appears to be a groundswell of support among area leaders in both business and government to overcome emerging challenges to the region’s competitiveness in areas like education, infrastructure, and global brand,” he added.
Compared with its eight peer cities, Seattle ranks fifth in overall competitiveness, according to BCG. The most significant challenges to Seattle’s future competitiveness are emerging gaps in education; the growing shortage of skilled science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workers; the reliance of regional employment on a few large companies; limited global connectedness; and the growth-limiting impact of transportation gridlock.
Perhaps more pressingly, Seattle faces the broader challenge of how to move forward. Many of the issues raised during BCG’s interviews with local leaders and highlighted by the benchmark study are well known to Seattle-area residents. Yet action is still elusive. To move forward, the study recommends that leaders in the greater Seattle region pivot their focus toward coordinated action. BCG has identified five competitiveness imperatives that Seattle-region leaders must address to make sustained progress:
• A Regional Vision and Strategy for the Future. Leaders must develop a coordinated private-public strategy that cuts across city and municipal boundaries and tackles regional issues such as transportation, education, and growth.
• Strong Leadership with the Ability and Courage to Make Tough Decisions. Effective leadership requires prioritization and direct action. With limited resources and time, leadership must be willing to make decisions that will be unpopular with some interest groups and constituents.
• Active Engagement in Shaping the Region’s Future. Business leaders must take an active role in addressing regional issues through direct political engagement and strong business-led organizations. They must identify opportunities to build cross-business partnerships and invest in setting the regional agenda.
• Active Management of the Talent Pipeline. The area needs to build, attract, and retain the best human capital by investing in K-12 and university education and ensuring that the number of STEM graduates meets the growing needs of local businesses. Build private-public outreach programs to attract the best domestic and international talent.
• Targeted Engagement with the Global Business Community. Leaders must create a compelling global brand for the Seattle region. This includes investing in programs and incentives that promote emerging regional businesses internationally and encourage foreign investment in the region.
The fluid nature of international business requires that city regions proactively manage their global competitiveness in order to secure and build economic prosperity. “As the home to notable Fortune 500 companies, a thriving innovation engine, and cutting-edge advanced manufacturing, Seattle is a medium-sized economy with all the prerequisites to effectively compete on the global stage,” concluded study coauthor Joel Janda.