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updated 2:54 PM CDT, Jul 28, 2018

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Seattle identity for business ... once of value, now eroded and maybe gone.

Port-of-Seattle

 When Expedia announced five years ago it was moving its headquarters from Downtown Bellevue to the Seattle waterfront, the company's then-CEO Dara Khosrowshahi explained that a local company that did business nationally should have Seattle in its identity, as in "Seattle-based."

It was a sense proudly shared by many residents and business leaders and did, in fact, serve to attract businesses to relocate, in part to attract employees also drawn to the image Seattle nurtured.

But in the follow-on to this year of coronavirus decimation of the economy and the Seattle riots that brought a response from the city's elected officials of, basically, "let them alone, their cause is right," there's likely to be an effort by many, most importantly the business community, to seek to avoid a Seattle identity. For some, that will even mean relocating their business. to be based elsewhere.

The major example of that is the headlong rush by Amazon to build its Bellevue presence by millions of square feet. The company, with thousands of employees at its Seattle headquarters, doesn't have to announce it is moving. After all, there will be possible executive offices in the Bellevue locations and employee growth at several Eastside Amazon locations.

Smaller but equally meaningful examples abound. A real estate friend of mine who recently sold the home of a family that moved from Seattle to Boise said they contacted her after the move to say they had been treated like refugees by those they met in the Idaho capital. As in, "What was it like there?" "What can we do to make you feel welcome here?"

And a friend who is a member of a national non-profit board said the recent virtual board meeting was filled with questions relating to the image of Seattle that is now extant, as in "is it even half as bad as we read and hear?"

The fact that the vast majority of protesters were peaceful was to the credit of those who organized the marches, mostly to espouse Black Lives Matter.

But the fact that Seattle leaders refused to come down hard on those who were violent, for fear of seeming to be not liberal enough if they cracked down on those bent primarily on destruction, will linger over Seattle's image until the electorate changes the face of the city council. And maybe the mayor who guides the city.

Some say that change isn't likely to happen and point as evidence of that to the re-election of Kashama Sawant last fall despite the fact she is the most incendiary far-left figure on the council. Or in elective office in this state, perhaps ever.

Maybe she is what the Seattle that is emerging wants.
 
John Powers
One of the earliest proponents of the importance of an organization getting the Seattle name to the fore was John Powers, the one-time Spokane mayor who was picked in 2004 to be the new executive director of the Seattle-King County Economic Development Council.

He convinced EDC board members, many from Seattle's suburbs, that the organization should be renamed Enterprise Seattle and for three years guided business recruitment efforts convinced that Seattle in the name had broad appeal.

Powers followed that Enterprise Seattle role with nine years as executive director of the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance before retiring last month and moving back home to Spokane to join in commercial real estate activity in partnership with his son, John Powers III.

Despite the fact that he will now be among those seeking to woo Seattle firms to move elsewhere, like maybe Eastern Washington, he remains a Seattle defender. He is convinced that while Seattle's image afar is now damaged, "I know how the political winds shift and long-term, I'm convinced Seattle's political pendulum will swing back toward the middle."

"Sawant is not the future of Seattle," he said, clearly intending to note the major image problem for Seattle is really a political problem.

"Seattle needs to find a unifier to guide the city back to that appealing image."

But the growing conviction that emergence from COVID-19 may include continuing the work-from-home factor is certain to challenge the return of Seattle's downtown to what used to be the normal of crowds of workers converging into the core.

And it's not just the possible appeal of living and working for a Seattle business from a home in Chelan, Ellensburg, Leavenworth, or Spokane; it's the likelihood of businesses themselves relocating.

That becomes a particular threat in the face of intent by the city's elected officials to find taxes that will impose the cost of fixing Seattle's ills on business, which are often pictured by too many of those City Council members as evil, greedy and self-serving.

Bellevue, for example, could do a much better job of marketing itself to those businesses already wondering if they should relocate but uncertain how to go about developing the idea.
But mounting a campaign targeting Seattle businesses obviously couldn't be implemented until a post-COVID time.

But proof that a Bellevue plan should be taking shape was my being told by the CEO of one Seattle-based regional company, "I really think we should move out of Seattle, but I'm not sure how to pursue that."

One possible idea for Bellevue business leaders  would be that all marketing materials should include a reference to "Seattle's premier side, the Eastside."

And pitching the difference by how the two cities have responded to the issue of pillage and destruction accompanying the protests is an emerging opportunity.

As indicated earlier, the idea of allowing law enforcement to enforce the law was greeted in Seattle with a "leave them alone, or we'll appear not liberal enough," accompanied by a willingness to force out with ill-treatment a widely respected black police chief.

In Bellevue, however, a police chief is in charge who understood the difference between peaceful protestors (with whom he actually met and spent time with during the demonstrations) and "an organized criminal network...clocking themselves as peaceful protesters."

Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett, in a video report to the community soon after the May 31 night of mayhem, explained that Bellevue experienced "a riot by more than a thousand criminals and opportunists who converged on the downtown core intent on causing destruction."

Mylett said he has ordered Bellevue police detectives "to identify and arrest as many of these offenders as possible" and added that anyone who wished could go to the police homepage to "upload any video or pictures from May 31 that would help us identify suspects."

Mylett said, "we have referred over 63 cases related to the riots and looting in Bellevue for prosecution, to the Prosecuting Attorney's Office."

 
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