North Bend and Snoqualmie’s businesses embrace both the mountains and the tech jobs nestled nearby
Snoqualmie Valley may be best known for the rugged scenery that framed the ABC series Twin Peaks in the 1990s, but the cities and towns of this region also house established businesses and eateries. In addition to Snoqualmie and North Bend, the area includes Carnation, Duvall, and Fall City.
Here, we take a deeper dive into the business landscape of North Bend and Snoqualmie.
North Bend’s downtown boasts the historic North Bend Theatre, live-jazz venue Boxley’s, and Scott’s Dairy Freeze — a burger and ice cream stand opened in the 1950s and currently owned by Mayor Ken Hearing. Last fall saw the addition of a new visitor information center with an art gallery displaying the work of artists throughout the 425 area and the opening of Piccola Cellars, a wine-tasting room in a renovated fire station.
Formerly a lumber town, North Bend entered the tech landscape when a Nintendo distribution facility opened there in the 1980s.
With the city’s proximity to fishing, kayaking, biking, and hiking, the downtown area caters to what Gina Estep, North Bend’s community and economic development director, calls “the after experience.” Tourists and outdoor enthusiasts come here to unwind with burgers or live music after a day of exploration. “We’re an outdoors-oriented world, and North Bend has a strong pull,” Estep says. “There are kayaks on cars and bikes hanging on racks. During the fall and spring, we have one of the best kayaking rivers, and hiking is popular from spring through fall. In the winter, we’re the last stop before you head to Snoqualmie Pass.”
Several local businesses cater to these outdoor pastimes. Pro Ski Service is owned by Martin Volken, a Switzerland native who is considered one of the best mountain guides in Washington. “He’s kind of a local superstar,” Estep says, adding that Volken also serves on the city’s Economic Development Commission. “We’ve really partnered with the outdoor-minded people to drive home this tourism,” she says. “We’re proud to have a strong local business presence.”
Northwest of North Bend sits an Eastside boomtown. Snoqualmie is the fastest-growing city in Washington, with 396 percent population growth between 2000 and 2010. City Administrator Bob Larson attributes the surge to a high quality of life.
“We’re a community of choice,” Larson says. “Of the different studies that I’ve seen, they’ve mentioned excellent schools, outdoor recreational opportunities, and public safety.”
Snoqualmie is sometimes viewed as a commuter area for Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, and Kirkland workers. Census data back this notion; the mean travel time to work for Snoqualmie residents is just over 30 minutes. While Larson acknowledges that many Snoqualmie residents do commute to jobs in the cities mentioned above, “there are a lot of home-based businesses out here, and we do have some larger employers.” Those large employers include engineering and manufacturing company Rudolph Technologies; medical device company Spacelabs Healthcare, which moved its headquarters to Snoqualmie in 2013; and specialty glass manufacturer Technical Glass Products, which moved to Snoqualmie in 2008.
Technical Glass Products President Jeff Razwick says the company’s move to Snoqualmie was fueled by a desire to combine its offices (formerly in Kirkland) with production (Woodinville) into a single location. Many of the region’s existing manufacturing spaces felt like a concrete box and didn’t fit the company’s desire for a high-end office, so it looked for land to develop. “Going to the south or north wasn’t practical because of traffic,” Razwick says. “No one wants to hit (Interstate) 5 north or south, so heading out on I-90 to the east was the best direction available.”
Overall, Razwick says, it’s been a good transition for the company and its 125 employees. “Snoqualmie is beautiful, and being located at the hub of Highway 18 and I-90 allows people to come from the south and the Eastside fairly easily,” he says. “You’re reverse-commuting, and it’s 25-30 minutes from the mountains.” The company also partners with the YMCA across the street to offer onsite exercise classes for employees.
Larson says affordability of land or commercial space is a key consideration for companies considering a move to Snoqualmie, and some business owners choose to live in Snoqualmie to enjoy a short commute. When companies do express interest in the area, the city plays matchmaker. “We feel it’s very important to get them information on the properties they may be looking at, or getting them permitted and getting them into the building to occupy it,” he says. “Time would cost them money, and there was one company that was basing their ultimate decision on how fast a turnaround each community was going to offer them. I pledged to them that if they got us information, I’d have staff jump on it immediately and we would answer on a 24-hour turnaround.”