Seattle Culture

It Starts Here

Seattle has momentum heading into 2024

By Rob Smith January 11, 2024

Photograph of Rob Smith, Executive Director for Seattle and Seattle Business magazines

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

At a recent event, a woman who had just returned to Seattle after years away lamented what she saw: Tents serving as shelter for those without homes. Cardboard houses. Fires and trash in the street.

Seattle is far from perfect. But, as the new year unfolds, there’s a lot to like. Here are several reasons why Seattle remains one of the nation’s most innovative — and, in many cases, unsung — major cities.

The billion-dollar waterfront makeover is perhaps the most ambitious public-private project in the country. The transformation of 20 acres along the city’s shoreline includes hundreds of new trees, native gardens, viewpoints, and a pedestrian promenade and cycle path. It will, once and for all, connect the waterfront to several nearby neighborhoods. The rebuilt Ocean Pavilion next to the Seattle Aquarium will feature a shark tank visible to pedestrians.

Pizza by drone? Iconic Seattle chain Pagliacci is partnering with drone company Zipline to offer drone delivery in the future. Several global name brands are on a tear: Costco’s revenue keeps increasing, month by month, quarter by quarter, year over year. Starbucks opened thousands of new stores across the world last year. Alaska Airlines is recovering nicely from the industry’s pandemic slump, reporting an impressive increase in income and passengers.

Boeing is roaring, due mostly to a huge increase in commercial-jet deliveries. The company recently received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to begin test flights for its new 737 Max 10, its largest single-aisle design.

In 2024, you’ll even be able to buy a Hyundai on Amazon. The company has started using AI-powered robots to match package sizes with the items they hold.

Microsoft is also using AI in numerous popular products, including Windows, Xbox, 365, and Teams. It recently launched Bing Chat Enterprise, a tool that offers businesses more control over generative AI. Company stock hit an all-time high in November.

Seattle VC firm Tola Capital recently announced that it has raised $230 million to invest in early-stage software and AI companies. Much of that will remain here.

AI workers in Seattle make on average more money annually — $157,000 — than in any other city in the U.S. Tech workers across the state also boast the highest median wage in the country, at nearly $130,000 a year. Computer engineering graduates from the University of Washington earn an average annual salary of $160,000 just four years after graduation, second highest in the U.S., behind only Princeton grads.

And, while nobody can say for sure what the future of work will look like, it appears we’re on a winning path: About 60% of companies in Washington state offer flexible working schedules that don’t require employees to be in an office full time. Nationwide, 49% of companies require full-time in-office work.

There are certainly challenges. The state of office markets in both Seattle and Bellevue is unclear. The future of Seattle’s iconic Bartell Drugs remains murky after corporate parent Rite Aid’s bankruptcy. A Forbes Advisor report found that retail crime in the state is the worst in the country, with retail theft here 48% higher than the national average. Homelessness remains a major problem, as does affordability.

Like other major cities, many of Seattle’s problems are highly visible, and some are unique. Solutions sometimes seem maddeningly elusive.

Yet, there’s a lot to celebrate. Seattle ranked No. 8 in the U.S. in a ranking of World’s Best Cities 2023 by Resonance Consultancy, based on a combination of statistical performance and analysis by locals and visitors in six core categories, including place, product, and people. As the report notes: “America’s growing tech hub is playing the long game, focusing on inclusive prosperity and urban vibrancy to win the war for talent.”

Solutions, and prosperity, must start somewhere. They’re already starting to happen here.

About the Editor's Note Column

Rob Smith is the editor of Seattle magazine and Seattle Business magazine. Following a brief stint in politics after graduating from the University of Oregon, he began freelance writing when a friend landed a job at a small newspaper. A few months later he was offered a full-time position and, as Mark Twain said, "I had no other options," so Rob became a journalist. He likes getting paid to be nosy.

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