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‘A Catalyst of Growth and Economic Recovery’

Why Washington’s tech sector continues to thrive.

Infrastructure
IonQ developes quantum computing systems.
Photo courtesy of IonQ

by MARK AREND
F

ew industries can match Washington’s technology sector in economic impact and employment growth in recent years. Consider the numbers. More than 360,000 people work in technology jobs in the state, or 9.4% of its workforce. Technology companies deliver more than $137 billion in economic impact — that’s nearly 22% of Washington’s economy. According to the Washington State Department of Commerce, 24% of wages in Washington are linked to the technology sector, and about 57% of services exported are tech related. Technology employment in Washington has grown nearly 34% in the past 10 years, the agency reports.

“Scoring Tech Talent 2023,” a recent report from CBRE Research, ranks Seattle second in the nation in the number of tech talent workers, behind only the San Francisco Bay Area. According to the report, the metro employed more than 194,000 workers in categories such as software developers and programmers; computer support, database and systems; computer and information systems managers; and engineering-related technology in 2022. The top industries employing tech talent in Seattle in 2021 were core high tech, meaning computer software and services and manufacturing; manufacturing, excluding high tech; FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate); professional services; and transport, warehouse and wholesale.

In May, Spencer Cohen, Ph.D., principal at Seattle-based High Peak Strategy LLC, produced a report, “Technology Sector Economic Outlook in Washington State and the Greater Seattle Region,” for the Washington Technology Industry Association. Among its many insights, two demonstrate the significance of Washington’s ICT industry.

The first is its role in helping the state recover from challenging economic circumstances. An excerpt from the report: “The tech sector has been a catalyst of growth and economic recovery during the last two recessions. In 2010, during the Great Recession, ICT represented roughly 5% of Washington’s statewide employment. However, between 2010 and 2019 (the post-Great Recession recovery period), ICT net employment increases represented 20% of all statewide covered net employment growth. Amid the 2020-2021 pandemic and global recession, the ICT sector in Washington added more new jobs in 2020 than it did in 2019 (20,900 new workers, compared with 20,800 in 2019 and 16,000 in 2018). By contrast, statewide employment fell by 180,800 jobs in 2020. While statewide employment contracted 5.3% in 2020, ICT employment grew 7.7%.”

The second, as the report stated, is that “Washington is home to numerous new technologies that will shape the course of human society, manufacturing, clean energy, maritime activities and healthcare.” These include generative artificial intelligence and machine learning, 5G (The 5G Open Innovation Lab is based at the Global Innovation Exchange in Bellevue) and edge computing, cloud computing, satellite broadband and clean technology, among others.

Better Batteries, Quantum Computing

In April, Woodinville, Washington–based Group14 Technologies, a producer of silicon battery technology, broke ground on a 1-million-sq.-ft.campus for a second U.S. Battery Active Materials (BAM-2) facility in Moses Lake where it will make silicon battery materials for the EV market. The company expects to hire 200 workers there initially. Like its existing plant in Woodinville, BAM-2 will produce silicon battery technology that Group14 says in a press release “delivers higher energy density and charge rates than traditional lithium-ion batteries.” 

Meanwhile, Washington is making a name for itself in quantum computing, an emerging technology that involves subatomic particles like photons and electrons. The Seattle suburb of Bothell is where Maryland-based IonQ, Inc. will open a 65,000-sq.-ft. quantum computing facility for its manufacturing and R&D teams.

“Advanced technologies like quantum computing are key to solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges such as climate change, energy and transportation,” said Peter Chapman, CEO and president of IonQ, in the company’s January 20, 2023, press release. “The Seattle region has been a hub of tech innovation and manufacturing for decades, and has the skilled workforce we need to design, build and manufacture our quantum computers. As we planned our expansion, the Seattle area was an ideal option for our new facility.” 

Mark Arend
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Mark Arend

Mark Arend has been editor in chief of Site Selection magazine since 2001. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.

 





As the No. 1 state in the nation, Washington’s economic strengths continue to earn top honors and attract new investments.






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