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The Seattle Trade Development Alliance: working for the area's economic future.

Washington State and the Greater Seattle region have one of the most trade-dependent economies in the United States. It is estimated that one in every five jobs in the region is tied directly or indirectly to international trade. The combined ports of Seattle and Tacoma are the second largest container load center in the nation.

Washington exports 90 percent of its agricultural production and, overall, a quarter of the value of Washington's production is sold in international markets. Boeing, the world's largest airplane manufacturer, is the largest exporter in the United States. The high-tech industries of software development, environmental engineering and biotechnology are growing rapidly in our region, and they are increasingly looking overseas for partnerships and markets.

Our region has always looked to the Pacific for our economic vitality. In the 19th century, a Seattle mayor would support and promote his community's business links to Alaska and the Yukon. In 1970, when Wes Uhlman became mayor of Seattle, Boeing sold its airplanes worldwide with little overseas competition. Today, Mayor Norm Rice serves in an era when corporations have become more international. A "local" company may have significant foreign ownership, overseas manufacturing operations and may market its products or services abroad more than at home. As corporations become more internationalized, they are less tied to one city or even one country. Information and capital can flow anywhere almost instantly; workforces are increasingly mobile.

In 1988, the Washington State Economic Development Board published a report, "Washington Works Worldwide: Positioning Ourselves to Compete in the New Global Economy." The report recommends several broad areas of action, including improving education and worker training programs, upgrading the state's infrastructure; protecting the environment and reforming the state tax structure.

In 1992, the City of Seattle, King County Government and Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce led a study mission to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Stuttgart, focusing on regional Competitiveness in a global environment.

The 70 business, civic, and government leaders who made up the delegation, examined the educational, transportation, trade, and investment promotion strategies of these metropolitan regions. The delegation visited with and learned about partnerships such as the Amsterdam Promotion Foundation (AmPro) which was one of the models for the creation of the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle.

A few lessons were striking. The visit reinforced the notion that a city cannot address its economic future in isolation from its civic partners in the broader metropolitan economy. The National League of Cities, along with other organizations and leading authors have drawn the conclusion .that as national borders break down in the globalized economy, it is metropolitan economies that will be the unit of competition, not the nation, the state, or an individual city.

The visit also reminded us of the importance of partnerships within the community. In the past, when the United States dominated the global economy, we had the luxury of adversarial relationships. We now need serious cooperation. Business, labor, educational institutions, local governments and key interest groups must reach some consensus on a local strategy for global competitiveness, assign organizations responsibilities, and act.

Two participants in the study mission, Seattle City Councilmember Jim Street and George Walker, chairman of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, have since established a leadership group to develop a regional economic strategy for our metropolitan area.

Work is progressing on reviewing our current situation, assessing our opportunities, and designing an action plan. A conference was held in January 1993, with speakers from Toronto, Cleveland, Hartford, Louisville, Portland, and Vancouver, B.C. They presented their cities' economic strategies. There presentations repeated the importance of harnessing market forces, achieving participation, consensus and action.

Our local officials have recognized the need to act national as well as locally on issues relating to competitiveness and trade. Mayor Rice, who serves on the U.S. Trade Representative's Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee, has followed the NAFTA negotiations with keen interest. Former Mayor Charles Royer lobbied in Washington to maintain ExIm Bank funding to support local exports.

Another strategy is the enhancement of public-private cooperation to promote global competitiveness. In 1991, the city and county governments, Port of Seattle, Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce and representatives of organized labor met and formed the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle.

The Alliance promotes our region's products and services by hosting inbound trade missions, organizing outbound missions to key markets and providing information and promotional material on our region to businesses. We work with local tourism professionals, state trade officials, local economic development agencies, nonprofit international trade organizations and educational institutions to promote this region as a crossroads of transportation and a center of commerce and trade.

When all is said and done, each city and region will need to examine its own situation and develop its own solutions for succeeding in the global economy.
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Title Annotation:Futures Forum
Author:Stafford, William
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Feb 8, 1993
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