Talk about a bittersweet week for the Eastside. Let’s start positive: REI plans to move its headquarters to the Spring District in Bellevue. This is huge news for a number of reasons. It validates Bellevue, which is losing Expedia, and the Spring District, which would nab its first corporate anchor tenant. It also illustrates the value of light rail, which REI executives said was a major reason the company chose the Spring District over Renton’s Southport. And, on the most basic level, REI would bring more than a thousand good-paying jobs and a reputable corporation to town.
All that’s great news. What’s not good is that the Eastside could shed thousands of Boeing jobs this year. In a bid to keep pace with Airbus’ low costs and remedy some questionable 787 financing decisions, Boeing is going to be trimming jobs. It appears the 737 plant in Renton will be relatively safe, but that remains to be seen. What’s clear is that the bulk of the job cuts will happen in Boeing’s Washington facilities; South Carolina plant chief Beverly Wyse said she doesn’t expect any jobs to be lost there.
It’s the latest in a worrying trend of Boeing reducing its Washington workforce. Local unions bemoan the state legislature’s failure to tie Boeing’s $8.7 billion tax breaks to the number of jobs it creates in the state. By moving some operations out of state and investing heavily in automation here, it appears Boeing’s Washington workforce won’t be growing any time soon.
There’s one silver lining in the Boeing news: Washington’s overall economic fortunes are not as tied to the jet maker as in decades past. The state, and the Seattle metro in particular, has done a good job of diversifying its economy, which makes it one of the few urban areas that is seeing its economy grow substantially.
The New York Times highlighted this trend by focusing on Denver, a city that constantly ranks along Seattle in terms of job growth, housing price increases, and livability. Denver, like Seattle, has become less reliant on individual industries or corporations, which fosters more hiring during hot economic days like now, and lessens the blow when a downturn comes.
Technology is common thread among today’s well-off cities. It will be interesting to see if cities eventually put too much focus on tech firms, leaving them at risk should an industry bubble develop.
The state legislatures of New York and California approved $15 minimum-wage bills within hours of each other Thursday, making them the latest jurisdictions to approve the wage point that has become a rally cry for low-income Americans. SeaTac was the first U.S. city to approve a $15 wage, but credit for the broader movement falls largely on Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant.
When Sawant was elected, it became a foregone conclusion that, for the first time, a large, fast-growth U.S. city would adopt a minimum wage significantly higher than its state’s. Seattle’s adoption of the wage hike made the nation take notice.
Plenty of critics emerged, but so far, it appears the wage hike isn’t forcing employers to cut jobs or shut down. A team of University of Washington researchers are conducting the most comprehensive study of the wage hike, and while it’s too early to make decisive conclusions, the researchers have uncovered no evidence of sweeping job losses opponents predicted.
Racist Tay: The Future of Microsoft?
Microsoft had a bit of a whoopsie with Tay, its AI-powered chat bot that turned really offensive really quickly. The uncomfortable experiment was only made more awkward when CEO Satya Nadella revealed at this week’s Build conference that conversational platforms are a key component of Microsoft’s future.
Microsoft is taking the stance that typing and other mechanical input methods soon will be passe, and we’ll all be talking to our computers instead. Thus, it urged developers to make chat-enabled applications, supposedly run by AI that works a bit better than Tay did.
Also, companies embracing voice input seem to be neglecting a horrible scenario: An office full of people shouting at their computers.
Elsewhere on the Web
Unity Technologies, which has a big presence on the Eastside, is a key figure in virtual reality’s resurgence.
Employers who embrace the gig economy are probably employers who dislike paying for employees’ insurance and other silly things like that.
In Seattle, the line to preorder the new Tesla vehicle stretches about three blocks. pic.twitter.com/GrUpyERDSl
— Evan Bush (@evanbush) March 31, 2016
Inrix is upping its game in the turn-by-turn arena.