The Rumor Mill
It’s amazing to us here in Washington State that there are people in this world who still don’t know what a great state we are to work, play and even settle down in.
Perhaps it’s those pesky rumors we’ve heard over the years that clouds people’s perceptions. So let’s take a look at some of these rumors, shine a light on them and address them head on:
#1 We have high taxes.
We are pretty certain that no one in all of human history has said, “Woohoo, my taxes are going up!” As a business, entrepreneur or investor, you should know that Washington doesn’t have a personal or corporate income tax. Depending on the size of your business, the cost of things like workers’ compensation, unemployment and corporate taxes can be less, even much less, than some other states. Businesses pay a tax on their revenue, known as the B&O tax. But there are tax breaks, deductions and credits to help you make more and pay less than some of those other states who tout their “low taxes.” In the 2021 Tax Foundation rankings of best tax climates, Washington ranked 16th.
#2 We’re a one-hit wonder.
That was true in the 1970s, perhaps when aerospace was out major claim to fame. While aerospace continues to be an important part of our economy, far more people work in information and communication technology than aerospace these days. Companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google and thousands of other ICT companies are prime drivers these days. Other sectors such as life science, advanced manufacturing, clean tech, agriculture/food manufacturing and maritime have added tremendous diversity to our economy. And we’re not even mentioning new clusters such as biotech, commercial space, autonomous vehicles and unmanned systems. You have to admit though that our first act – ushering in the age of affordable commercial jet travel – wasn’t too shabby.
#3 It rains all the time.
That depends where you are, of course. If you’re standing on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, you’ll probably get soaked now and then, especially if you’re hiking one of the few temperate rain forests on the planet, the Olympic National Forest. Traveling inland and using Seattle as the (rain) gauge, it rains about 9.4% of the time, which means 90.6% of the time it is dry in Western Washington. For comparison, Houston, New Orleans, Memphis, Mobile, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia and Miami all get more annual rainfall than Seattle. Because of the way the mountain ranges interact, Western Washington can have long periods of “filtered sunshine.” This is our term for the days or weeks when it’s gray and overcast but not drizzling, misting or raining. If you are a sun worshipper, some parts of Eastern Washington have more sunny days annually than Florida. Snow? We try to keep it up in the mountains where it belongs so we can marvel at its pristine beauty from afar.
#4 The minimum wage is $15 per hour.
There used to be a big hubbub in the media that some cities in Washington had set the minimum wage at $15 per hour. People said it was outrageous to pay someone that much to flip burgers all day (it’s our guess these critics never did this grueling type of work). But with tens of thousands of jobs open and no one rushing to fill them, we’re wondering why other states aren’t giving their employees at least some chance of earning a decent wage. The minimum wage in Washington State is a respectable $13.69 an hour this year and is tied to inflation so workers don’t lose buying power from year to year. Texas’ minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Georgia? $5.15 an hour, $2.13 if you also accept tips. No, that’s not a typo, and it’s definitely not a joke. In the Peach State you’d have to work more than an hour to afford one of those Big Mac Meals you were flipping patties for.
#5 Traffic sucks.
Traffic sucks in most growing economies, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Add in some natural geography such as lakes, hills and mountains and getting from Point A to Point B in a straight line can be next to impossible. But get outside of the Everett-Seattle-Tacoma corridor and traffic is easy-breezy. In the more rural parts of the state you’ll find it a challenge to run a red light – there aren’t any. Many businesses choose to locate in smaller communities because of the quality of life and the chance to be a big fish in a small pond. Since the state isn’t that large, it’s easy to enjoy all the excitement of a major metropolitan center while living in a place where there’s little traffic, people still leave their doors unlocked, and everyone knows their neighbor. Imagine that!
#6 The President lives here.
If you’re talking about the President of the United States, sorry, wrong Washington. But if you’re talking about the presidents of some of the biggest business legends in the U.S. – Amazon, Costco, Microsoft, Nordstrom, Paccar, REI and Starbucks, to name a few – as well as the nearly a half million other business throughout the state, then you’ll find presidents (and CEOs) everywhere. If you want to see the actual President, we offer direct flights to that other Washington, the one with D.C. after it.
#7 The scenery is Photoshopped.
No doubt you’ve seen those stunning photos of Western Washington cities framed by majestic mountains, including Mt. Rainier, which is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. Those photos are real (except the ones with Sasquatch in them). Western Washington is flanked by the Cascade Mountains to the east, Olympics to the west, Mt. Rainier to the south and Mt. Baker to the north. To the north, you’ll also find the San Juan Islands, an oasis of nearly 200 islands. In Eastern Washington, there are endless vistas of rich agricultural land, rolling hills, old-growth forests, vast plains and even a mini-Grand Canyon – the Columbia (River) Gorge. Even lifelong residents continue to be in awe of the jaw-dropping scenery that seems to pop up out of nowhere around every turn.
#8 Washington is in the middle of nowhere.
Let’s start with the fact that Alaska and Hawaii are far are way more middle of nowhere; they’re not even connected to another U.S. state. Washington proudly sits in the far upper left corner of the United States. We are bordered to the north by the Canadian Province of British Columbia, Oregon to the south, Idaho to the east, and to the west, the Pacific Ocean, which by the way, gives a few of our ports a day’s jump on getting products to and from major Asia markets. If you do business in European and Asian markets, we’re equidistant between the two continents. Direct flights from Seattle connect us to major cities throughout the U.S. and the world, and our rail system and highways connect businesses to every city in North, Central and South America. Hmm, that doesn’t sound very remote at all.
#9 We’re all a bunch of lumberjacks and cowboys*.
That used to be true a hundred years ago, even though the hipster movement brought back lumberjack beards briefly, and the Grunge movement leaned heavily toward lumberjack plaids as a fashion statement. While we still cherish the pioneer spirit that makes us unique as a culture, we are in the thick of things when it comes to reshaping and redefining the world at large. If you have a latte in your hand, are talking on a cellphone, have flown on a jumbo jet, had your heart jumpstarted, play the electric bass, groove to the tunes of Jimi Hendrix or have a nostalgic connection to a Slinky Dog, you have us to thank. We have changed the world with our creativity, innovation and invention. We continue to challenge the bleeding edge with new ideas that shake the market, shape the world, and often become cultural icons – can you say Funko? Bet ya can!**
** This is way funnier if you say it in the style of Mister Rogers.
#10 We’re pretty earthshaking.
Um, thank you? If you’re talking about our economy and our reputation for innovation and invention, then yes, we’ve rattled a few cages in our time. If you’re talking about earthquakes, yes, they happen from time to time. Most can’t even be felt. The last large quakes that caused any real damage were in 1949, 1965 and 2001, so they’re pretty few and far between. Most occur on the west side of the state since the geology there is a little more fluid in volcanic terms. Historically they have disrupted our economy far less than the tornadoes, hurricanes and floods in other parts of the country that are far more frequent and deadly. Plus, all that tectonic plate action created our amazing mountain ranges – a pretty good tradeoff, don’t you think?
#11 Seahawks tickets are part of our incentive package.
We wish. If that were the case, everyone would be locating a business here (which they should do anyway). Even Ciara has trouble scoring tickets, and her husband’s the quarterback. However, if game tickets are indeed a deal-breaker, we could probably swing a couple of tickets on the 50-yard line at an upcoming Hazen Highlanders game in Renton Stadium. You can drive right by the Seahawks training facility on the way.
* We still have lumberjacks and cowboys in Washington, by the way. Our forest products and agriculture/food processing industries are huge drivers of the economy and we’re pretty proud of the work these folks do.