Seattle Business

Seattle Business


Seattle’s industrial timeline has been constantly changing. With the fall of Washington Mutual, there are now even fewer long running businesses that have come from the area. Yet the economy stays afloat on this cycle of boom and bust, always on the edge of the latest industry. This trend started from the beginning, when settlers first came to Seattle and set up the sawmills to process the timber. When timber lost its edge, gold came to town.

With the fortunes of the gold rush—or lack thereof, entrepreneurs who had passed through Seattle came and set up shop. Whether clothing gold miners, as Nordstrom and Eddie Bauer set out to do, or delivering messages and more to the rest of the world, as the company that later became UPS did, business was booming and people took advantage. With the bust of the gold rush, Seattle stepped in to build ships for the First World War and for a while after. Unfortunately, the bust came during a strike when much of Seattle’s port traffic was diverted to Los Angeles.

Transportation was still the ticket for Seattle, however, when Boeing began to rise to power. While it was founded in the beginning of the century, it was with the advent of airplanes for pleasure travel in the 1950s that Boeing became a local business leader. Until 2001, when it moved its headquarters to Chicago, Boeing was one of the area’s leading employers. It still has a presence in the area in the form of its plants in Renton and Everett; however, it is not what it used to be in the area.

From airplanes, Seattle industry moved to a different kind of technology, with Microsoft moving into town in 1979. Microsoft itself created a huge industry, building a multi-national software corporation in the Seattle suburbs. On top of that, it created a culture of technology enthusiasts and specialists in the area. From there, the technology industry in Seattle fed on itself, creating a number of small businesses looking to help Microsoft or use the knowledge of former Microsoft employees to compete with Microsoft. From Microsoft came a wellspring of technology companies, forming what was called the dot-com boom. Literally hundreds of website based companies sprung up around the country, with many based in Seattle. Few of them lasted any longer than the boom itself, though Amazon was one of the lucky ones. Amazon, the online retailer, grew to become a major player in the Seattle economy.

While the online technology industry boomed in Seattle, all those techies needed to be fueled along in their work, helping Seattle’s other big industry of the time. Starbucks, Seattle’s Best and Tully’s grew to be the big players in Seattle’s famous coffee industry. Additionally, the biomedical industry has made its home in Seattle, with countless small research firms working alongside Zymogenetics, Philips Medical and numerous other big players.

As the technology and coffee industries support the city, there is no telling what the next boom could be, but whatever it is, its certain that Seattle will thrive on that, as it has on the other industries that made their home here.





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