Western Exposure

Seattle is smarter and luckier than Portland – less hip and green, but we’ll take it

By December 8, 2009March 19th, 2015No Comments

As one blogger sees it, Seattle is smarter than Portland.

rita_hibbardwebPortland and Honolulu may be higher on the “green-only litmus test” writes commentator Joel Kotkin, but  Seattle has a “smarter” economy. And I’d add a “luckier” economy to that list, because he goes on to note Seattle’s location as the closest major port to the Asian Pacific.

Judging cities by economic fundamentals of infrastructure and livability, he says, would place cities like Seattle, Amsterdam, Singapore and Morterrey, Mexico, ahead of Portland. Seattleites are accustomed to hearing themselves compared unfavorably to Portland. It’s greener. Has more bike paths. Hipper. More livable. And so on. So this is good news for the bigger city with a chip on its shoulder.

Writing in the blog Newgeography, Joel Kotkin says:

“Although self-obsessed greens might see their policies as the key to the area’s success, Seattle’s growth really stems more from economic reality. In this sense, Seattle’s boom has a lot to do with luck — it’s the closest major U.S. port to the Asian Pacific, which has allowed it to foster growing trade with Asia. Furthermore, Seattle’s proximity to Washington state’s vast hydropower generation resources — ironically the legacy of the pre-green era — assures access to affordable, stable electricity. The area also serves as a conduit for many of the exportable agricultural and industrial products produced both in the Pacific Northwest and in the vast, resource-rich northern Great Plains, linked to the region by highways and freight rails.

“As North America’s economy shifts from import and consumption toward export and production, Seattle’s rise will be a model for other business-savvy cities in the West and South.”

He goes on to praise Charleston, S.C., as another example of the “World’s Smartest Cities,” which is the title of the blog post. Now that’s a sore subject for Seattle, because that’s where the the “stolen” Boeing plant is going. I mean, being relocated. You know, that one that many folks in the Seattle area think belongs to them.

Another smart town poised to take advantage of an industrial expansion is Charleston, S.C., which has expanded its port and manufacturing base while preserving its lovely historic core. Once an industrial backwater, Charleston now seems set to emerge as a major aerospace center with a new Boeing 787 assembly plant, which will bring upward of 12,000 well-paying jobs to the region.

— Rita Hibbard

Rita Hibbard

Rita Hibbard


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