A collaborative guide for Tacoma’s transformation: Reimagining Tacoma post-COVID-19

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By David Kirichenko

More than 10 million people around the world have become infected with novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and over 500,000 people have died from the disease. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt industries and businesses around the world, Tacoma’s budget is poised to take a financial hit due to impacts from the coronavirus pandemic, including an approximately $40 million budget shortfall. Even before the pandemic, Tacoma was already predicted to have slower economic growth in 2020. The financial impact from COVID-19 will likely be more devastating than the 2008 global financial meltdown. However, in the midst of a crisis that is rocking society and the economy, what lies ahead of us is a great opportunity to embrace the future and change Tacoma’s course. There are several things Tacoma can do to become more attractive to start-ups and established companies, and one of the most critical is to make fiber available across the city.

Industries that may have been largely shielded from recessions in the past, like education and health care, are now struggling according to the city budget officer Katie Johnston. However, the COVID-19 crisis provides an opportunity to change direction, invest correctly in the economy, and recover economically. For some cities, near-term survival is the only agenda item, while other cities are looking through the fog of uncertainty, thinking about how to position themselves once the crisis has passed and things return to normal. Tacoma is facing difficult circumstances, but the COVID-19 crisis provides the city with the ability to reimagine Tacoma’s future. In order to guide Tacoma into a successful recovery and subsequently transform the city into a tech hub, there are five changes that need to take place: improved office space (although COVID-19 will potentially change the need for this), the development of talent, establishment of a tech board, infrastructure support, and a supportive ecosystem. 

Tacoma should look into revitalizing old buildings in the city to improve the availability of top tier office space, which will make Tacoma more attractive to companies looking to expand or move their offices. Tacoma also needs to establish a technology board that would help advise the city on new ways to leverage data to reduce traffic congestion, promote economic growth and enhance electronic civic engagement and broadband coverage. In addition to establishing a board, Tacoma needs to make sure its local colleges better prepare its workforce to meet growing demand in certain industries. Following this, Tacoma should immediately begin investing into its basic broadband infrastructure to help individuals and businesses get faster internet access. An example for Tacoma to follow is Chattanooga, Tennessee. The city government there built out high-speed, low-cost internet services, and made Chattanooga the first city in the United States to have a citywide gigabit-per-second fiber internet network. This investment into its own infrastructure paid significant dividends as the city has become a center of innovation and many empty buildings in the city have been filled with various start-ups. 

Startup communities and ecosystems are the key to Tacoma’s success and future. Their contributions to economic growth and job creation are well documented. The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity for Tacoma to create a new economic growth plan, one that promotes a skilled workforce and enhances the city’s infrastructure. The world is staring at an incoming recession, and it is imperative that Tacoma moves to mitigate the economic damage and ignite growth. 

Tacoma needs its leadership to take a deeper look at its current policies in regards to how they seek to retain companies, such as policies that provide tax cuts and incentives that attract businesses with low paying jobs, like DaVita and State Farm.The existing policies have a detrimental effect on the local economy that goes beyond that of lost jobs. Additionally, when these companies leave, others who support Tacoma with their time and money may leave as well. The large-scale projects made possible by the “big-money benefactors” are less likely to happen when those benefactors move away. Reversing Tacoma’s long economic decline will depend upon the building of a strong startup ecosystem. This requires sustained investment in small businesses to foster a place that both attracts talent and provides opportunity for local entrepreneurs.

Background

Tacoma, known as the “City of Destiny,” has been anything but that. When Russell Investments left for Seattle in 2010, it continued a trend of homegrown companies, such as Weyerhaeuser, retreating from Tacoma. With the departure of Russell Investments, Tacoma lost 900 high paying jobs. State Farm, which moved into the former Russell building, closed down its 1,400-person operations in Tacoma a few years later and moved elsewhere. DaVita is also transitioning out of Tacoma. Like Russell, DaVita was the target of a massive incentive package to retain large employers downtown. The City of Tacoma had built an $850,000 parking lot for their employees and had offered other incentives to try and attract DaVita to stay. However, it bore no fruit, and DaVita is packing their bags and moving to Federal Way. 

The former mayor of Tacoma had a vision to attract large companies from other markets to move to Tacoma with tax breaks and regulatory incentives, hoping to bring outside money into the community. The city has seen some success with this effort. In 2016, the city sold a 6.4-acre parcel of vacant land to a Chinese developer for a development project that includes 300+ apartments, 200,000 square feet of retail space, and 480 parking spaces on downtown’s largest undeveloped piece of land. According to the city’s leadership, it is a win because it will allow the property to become a source of tax revenue once again. However, the city took a loss of several million dollars on the sale of the property since it still owes a great deal of money on tax-exempt bonds on the property. 

Utilizing this vastly important downtown property to build a huge retail space will not help Tacoma to strengthen its economic base and future. In fact, it contributes to the vulnerabilities the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted since Tacoma is heavily dependent on sectors, such as retail, that are getting battered by social distancing measures. Instead, the city could have used this space to invest in building more office space suitable to generate interest from tech firms like Infoblox that are looking to expand in Tacoma. 

Tacoma needs more growth and diversity in its economy. If Tacoma continues to offer costly incentive packages in the hopes of attracting and retaining companies, the city will always be in a hole. The city needs to provide the infrastructure and brain power that will attract and support innovation, to diversify the economy, and to create an entrepreneur-friendly environment that will expand Tacoma’s economic growth. History is littered with places that decline when they become too specialized and overly dependent upon one industry and one set of technological capabilities, like Pittsburgh with steel or Detroit with automobiles. In contrast, Annalee Saxenian discusses in Regional Advantagethat the San Francisco Bay Area has been able to move from one technological field to the next: from computer hardware and software to biotechnology, social media, and artificial intelligence. 

Longstanding economic differences keep unemployment high in Pierce County as Tacoma relies on its industrial base, while Seattle expanded into many different sectors including tech. Tacoma has retained a job-poor economic base, dependent on outside forces such as shipping and timber production, and has become more dependent on foreign trade as a result. 

There are reasons why notable homegrown employers like Weyerhaeuser and Russell Investments left Tacoma for Seattle, namely that Seattle has a better business climate and better business image. Overall, about half of employed residents in Pierce County work outside of the county. Housing costs in Pierce Country and Tacoma are low compared to other nearby counties; Tacoma is attracting many people to come and live in Tacoma but many of these people go search for jobs in cities/counties outside of the Tacoma area. According to a report by WorkForce Central,about 35% of Pierce County’s employed residents worked in King County in 2017. Tacoma’s economy has remained tied to a shrinking industrial base while Seattle has been experiencing a tech boom in the last few years. 

By almost every economic measure, Tacoma is lagging behind the nation and Seattle. 

“More than 80,000 jobs were posted in Pierce County in 2018. The highest demand across the year was for retail salespersons, with more than 5,000 job active job postings in 2018 and a median wage of $26,075. The unemployment rate is higher in Tacoma (11%) than in Washington State (9%), while poverty rates in Tacoma among all residents (18%) exceed rates in Pierce County (13%) and Washington State (16%). Average annual wages per worker grew by 3.7 percent over the preceding four quarters. Statewide wages grew 6.4 percent in that time and nationwide wages grew 4.3 percent.” – WorkForce Central

Office Space

As of now, Tacoma lacks what even medium-sized tech firms need – Class A office space. Class A buildings are the newest, most modern high-rises on the market, with “high-quality standard finishes, state of the art systems, exceptional accessibility and a definite market presence,” according to the Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA). When Amazon announced plans to create a second headquarters, Tacoma’s government felt compelled to make a bid. The city also invested resources to help prepare a bid, despite not meeting many of the required criteria such as having enough Class A office space. This bid was a long shot given that even small tech startups don’t come to Tacoma. In addition, office buildings in the surrounding areas, such as Federal Way and Puyallup, have recently become home to companies unable to find Class A space in Tacoma. MorphoTrak was a technology firm that left Tacoma for Federal Way’s cheaper rent as Tacoma’s limited Class A office space results in higher prices. 

However, Tacoma does have large vacancies in Class B and C buildings according to a report by CBRE. Class B office space is typically leased at a fair market price and the systems are good and classified as average, but not great. Class C commercial office spaces are the poorest-quality offices on the market as they are usually located in the least desirable areas of cities and typically require significant repairs or renovations.

Class A office space in Tacoma’s desirable downtown is made up of six buildings – Wells Fargo Plaza, State Farm Building, Tacoma Financial Center, Columbia Bank Center, Pacific Plaza and Umpqua Bank Building – totaling 1.1 million square feet but only 8% of the Class A office space is vacant. The last Class A space built in Tacoma without city assistance was in 2004: the 68,500-square-foot Umpqua Bank building. There is also a gap between current Class A market rents and the rents necessary to support new construction in Tacoma. Over time, Seattle has attracted more tenants, even though the city has become more expensive. Tacoma should focus on regional infrastructure and education initiatives to show investors that it is the right time to invest into Tacoma. 

Infoblox, a cybersecurity firm, was one of the first leading tech companies to have an office in Tacoma. The company is open to expanding, but there is no more available office space that small tech startups need. Many companies such as Infoblox want to remain in the downtown area and continue to expand but cannot afford to wait for a new building to be built. Without the necessary office space, Tacoma is highly unlikely to attract startups of any sort nor promote internal talent to start their own tech startups. Post-COVID-19, the need for Class A office space will reduce as more workers telecommute, but office space will still be important to enable companies to base their operations in Tacoma. 

Although Class A office space is a necessity for larger companies, this is not the market Tacoma should be striving for. Class A office space will require significant investments from the city in new buildings and more parking spaces for employees. TractionSpace is one of the latest startups to enter Tacoma’s coworking scene. They have successfully renovated a historic building downtown and turned it into a high tech flexible working space. According to TractionSpace’s CEO Don Morrison, “More than most cities, Tacoma is rich in beautiful old buildings. Quality renovations of well-located buildings, with modern amenities and high tech enablers, such as fiber and 5G, would be great for smaller high tech businesses to start up or relocate here,” (Don Morrison, personal communication). Older buildings with many vacancies or in need of upgrades could become prime candidates for redevelopment. Since the majority of Tacoma’s overall office space is Class B and C, the city should look into renovating these historical spaces to create attractions for businesses and talent. Rehabilitation of older buildings can result in an increase of the overall appeal of the area.

As a good example, Tacoma’s Old City Hall was purchased by a group of local investors who are refurbishing the building to include retail, restaurants, co-working office spaces, a museum and affordable housing. With more projects such as these, Tacoma might not need to invest in building more Class A office space, but could simply refurbish some of the existing infrastructure around town, equipping the buildings with fiber optics. 

Looking ahead, office space may become less critical in a tech field that might rely more and more upon telework in the future. Many companies are implementing remote work paradigms for the first time and this has led them to rethink traditional workplace models. The current crisis will serve as an important testing ground for a new norm. As “stay at home” orders continue across the country, many American workers are learning the benefits of working remotely versus commuting in a suit. It is likely that telecommuting will soon become a benefit similar to stocks and a 401(k). Before the outbreak, only 7% of workers in the U.S. had access to “flexible workplace” benefits, or telework, according to the Pew Research Center. Because of this pandemic, companies may begin to recognize the value of remote work because of its greater flexibility, lower infrastructure requirements, reduced carbon emissions and reduced traffic. However, is Tacoma ready to take advantage of this recognition? 

Develop Talent

This pandemic has demonstrated how reliant Tacoma is on traditional industries and has exposed the lack of diversification in its economy, as well. The largest industry sector in Pierce County is healthcare and social assistance, with 58,534 workers. The next-largest sectors are retail trade (39,203 workers) and educational services (30,055). The major employers for Tacoma are the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, local public-school districts, MultiCare Health System and Washington State Employees. Meanwhile, Seattle has Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, and many other high paying employers that make the city more resilient in an economic downturn. Cities like Seattle have more tech businesses, which don’t need to shut down for social distancing because they can more easily transition to having employees work remotely. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that Tacoma needs to invest more in knowledge-based industries, such as software engineering and biotechnology, to name a few.  

In late 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that 60 percent of all jobs could see more than 30 percent of their key tasks automated by 2030, affecting 400 to 800 million jobs around the world. According to the Brookings Institution, the pace of automation increased during each of the last few recessions, meaning that cities that are dependent upon jobs requiring minimal formal education will start losing significant amounts of their workforce to automation. Along with the public health crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to new waves of automation and lasting changes to an already rapidly evolving job market and may devastate global trade. Therefore, if Tacoma does not invest in its own local talent and support its development, Tacoma will fall behind economically. 

The RAIN Incubator was launched in September of 2017 as a nonprofit life science innovation hub in downtown Tacoma, to develop local talent, companies, and jobs. RAIN is one the leading players in Tacoma that is focused on supporting the development of Tacoma’s upcoming workforce. RAIN exists to provide start-up companies “with significant support for ideation, research and development, prototyping, business development, and launch,” according to RAIN’s online biography.Speaking of local talent development, RAIN CEO David Hirschberg stated: “Everyone wants a bottling plant or an Amazon fulfillment center, but I’m looking for factories that generate tech jobs that pay $50,000, $70,000 or $100,000 that attract the young people and diversity.” Tacoma should not accept that its companies and talent leave Tacoma and go to King County, but rather, should look to developing local talent and companies to help Tacoma grow. About 35 percent of Pierce County’s employed residents worked in King County in 2017. What if Tacoma weren’t exporting its talent to King County anymore and, instead, allowed this talent to flourish in Tacoma?

Tacoma should also look into building a skills development fund that would provide grants to colleges to provide job training programs tailored to the needs of local businesses. One example of this is that there is a lack of biotech-ready engineers in Tacoma to meet the demand for work in local labs. Tacoma should partner with institutions such as Tacoma Community College to tailor workforce training to accommodate local demand. 

If Tacoma focuses on developing its own talent and encouraging that talent to stay, then Tacoma can be transformed into a tech hub. If Tacoma creates higher paying tech jobs, then remaining sectors of the economy, such as restaurants and others, will also see a boom. Higher paying jobs here mean more people live, work, and play in Tacoma, meaning more business – and higher paying clients/customers – for local businesses in Tacoma. Universities can play a critical role in growing the local innovation economy through research and development and serving as incubators to train entrepreneurs and help develop new businesses. 

The University of Washington Tacoma, with its student and faculty population of 5,000, plays a major role in attracting people to downtown Tacoma. In addition,UW Tacoma’s overall economic impact on the state of Washington has been over $300 million. UW Tacoma’s Center for Data Science, a research arm that is an incubator for tech startups, intends to help launch new tech companies. One prominent example of this success is KenSci, a startup with technology developed at UW Tacoma’s Center for Data Science, which was recognized by Microsoft as a 2018 Health Partner of the Year finalist. 

In the School of Engineering and Technology at UW Tacoma, hundreds of undergraduates are currently studying fields such as computer science, computer engineering and information technology, with dozens of others earning graduate degrees, including a Master of Cybersecurity and Leadership (MCL). However, while many students receive their education in Tacoma, they leave after graduation as they are pursued by companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, T-Mobile, and Boeing. The city needs to retain this talent and make sure these graduates are staying and investing back into the local economy by starting companies or taking jobs with local startups. If the city can get more startups to invest in Tacoma, the city can utilize its own local talent to become a tech hub.

Infrastructure Support 

Tacoma should focus on regional infrastructure and education initiatives, and support public investment in light rail, housing, and other basic infrastructures that can contribute towards an economic advantage for the city. According to the Harvard Business Review journal, “For other communities looking to create ‘the next Silicon Valley,’ they would be well-served to consider investing in basic infrastructure as the time-tested formula for success.” 

The difference between growing up in Tacoma and growing up in Silicon Valley is that a young person in Silicon Valley has more potential to become the next Mark Zuckerberg due to having better internet access with fiber optics. Fiber will level the playing field for all students (children and adults) in their educational pursuits. Information and knowledge will be “at their fingertips.” Fiber can position local communities for tomorrow’s jobs and economic growth. If people live in a city that supports tech innovation, it can make a big difference. 

The newest broadband service is fiber-optic, which is the fastest Internet connection available so far. Unlike other “connections that carry electrons across copper wire, fiber supports fast, reliable connections by using photons across glass, giving it the capacity to carry nearly unlimited amounts of data across long distances at spectacularly fast speeds.” Wherever fiber is available, the cost not only competes with that of DSL and cable, but it provides a much faster connection than both of those services. Its usability and resiliency have brought fiber to the forefront of broadband, making it a highly desired asset for all entities, public and private, that own or control it. 

Promoting fiber access needs to become a major public policy issue for Tacoma. Fiber, like electricity, has very high upfront costs, with high barriers to entry. However, just as access to electricity transformed society by facilitating growth in areas such as transportation, heating and cooling among other things, fiber can also provide significant benefits. But its use will require sustained long-term vision and investment. 

The current technology demands on our educational system during the COVID-19 pandemic reveal just how critical fiber is and how deficient the current system is. An audit commissioned by Pierce County showed that in many areas internet speeds are about a third of what service providers said they would deliver, meaning consumers are getting much less than they’re paying for, highlighting one failure of public infrastructure. It is not inexpensive to ensure that every American has the connectivity required to thrive, but it is a smart investment nonetheless.

There is no easy way to measure the impact of broadband access on the economy, but this is exactly the sort of investment Tacoma should make in a time of crisis. Broadband helps to bring about welfare improvements. It enables more flexible work practices, such as work hours and locations, which contribute to easing the congestion and pollution faced by large cities. This is something we are currently witnessing since workers who can work from home are doing so in order to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

The deployment of such as fiber across business enterprises “improves productivity by facilitating the adoption of more efficient business processes (e.g., marketing, inventory optimization, and streamlining of supply chains).” According to a report by the University of Munich, “a 10% increase in broadband penetration raises per-capita GDP growth by 0.9-1.5 percentage points.” In addition, The World Bank has estimated that increasing broadband access by about ten percent can lead to an increase in per capita GDP by $13,036. 

Most recently, Tacoma’s public broadband network has transitioned to private operation. In late 2019, Tacoma’s city council approved an agreement between Tacoma Public Utilities and Rainier Connect, handing over the management of Click to Rainier Connect, a Tacoma-based ISP. However, Tacoma’s public broadband network is still publicly owned, meaning that Tacoma’s leadership can influence and steer strategy to expand fiber connectivity for the city. For example, Tacoma, in partnership with Rainier Connect and with financial support from the city, can establish a dedicated economic zone in downtown where all the buildings are equipped with fiber. This should attract more startups and mid-sized companies to take the step and relocate to this dedicated economic zone in Tacoma. 

In considering this idea, it is worth taking a close look at a case study of how fiber can help transform a community. Over the last two decades, Chattanooga, Tennessee, found itself facing a steep decline as manufacturing jobs moved elsewhere, a situation similar to Tacoma’s. By 2010, the city had deployed its fiber-optic technology across the city, even as the downtown area was filled with empty factory buildings. By 2016, “an incredibly vibrant tech community had filled many of those vacant buildings with open-office spaces for start-ups.” Chattanooga has established itself as a center for innovation – and an encouraging example for Tacoma and Pierce County. 

At present, Chattanooga has one of the best, but also one of the least expensive, high speed internet services in the entire United States and is a city that is touted as having been saved by the internet. The city government built out these high-speed, low-cost internet services, making Chattanooga the first city in the United States to have a citywide gigabit-per-second fiber internet network. According to the New York Times, “For less than $70 a month, consumers enjoy an ultrahigh-speed fiber-optic connection that transfers data at … 50 times the average speed for homes in the rest of the country, and just as rapid as service in Hong Kong, which has the fastest Internet in the world.”

The reinvestment in the city’s infrastructure has helped Chattanooga thrive and create a new identity for itself as it has become an internet and tech hub. Chattanooga should serve as a model for Tacoma to follow, as it turned itself from a failing mid-sized city into a tech startup hub that improved the quality of services for its people while promoting strong economic growth. According to Jason Koebler from Vice news: “Like the presence of well-paved roads, good internet access doesn’t guarantee that a city will be successful. But the lack of it guarantees that a community will get left behind as the economy increasingly demands that companies compete not just with their neighbors next door, but with the entire world.”

It is now time to make the next step, and to ensure that everyone in Tacoma – wherever they live, and whatever their circumstances – has access to the benefits of broadband. This is not just about delivering connectivity for connectivity’s sake or even about giving people access to the undisputed benefits of social communications. It is about leveraging the power of broadband to make Tacoma a better place to live and work and to promote local innovation. Its transformative power as an enabler of economic and social growth makes it an essential tool for empowering people, creating an environment that nurtures technological and service innovation, and triggers positive change in business processes, as well as the wider community.

Technology Board

Of the city’s current 27 committees, boards and commissions, none is dedicated to technology. What type of signal does this send to tech entrepreneurs? What is Tacoma doing, if anything, to increase the availability of broadband? Pierce County recently hired two consulting firms for a total of $146,925 and is scrambling to build better infrastructure to expand broadband access. Teachers across Pierce County are struggling with virtual teaching due to extremely slow internet speeds. How can Tacoma expect to create a new generation of entrepreneurs if they can’t even access the internet? Tacoma and Pierce County need to focus on long-term agendas rather than short-term wins. 

Technology will play a role in addressing many challenges facing the city and the region today. No matter to what corner of the globe you travel, Internet of Things (IoT) technology is rapidly transforming every facet of city life. Looking to Singapore for reference, Tacoma can build a smart city “by harnessing technology with the aim of improving the lives of its residents, creating more opportunities and building stronger communities” as Gov Tech Singapore has stated. A technology board would advise the city on new ways to leverage data to reduce traffic congestion, promote economic growth and enhance electronic civic engagement and broadband coverage.

A Supportive Ecosystem

The city needs to provide the infrastructure and brain power that will attract and support innovation, to diversify the economy, and to create an entrepreneur-friendly environment that will expand Tacoma’s economic growth. Emphasizing a start-up culture is a good place to begin, focusing on investment in dedicated economic zones where fiber is installed so that businesses can hit the ground running. As well as incentivizing companies to develop their businesses in Tacoma, the city needs to welcome companies squeezed out of the Seattle market, introducing smaller tech firms to a local ecosystem where they can grow and prosper together. 

A city has to be supportive of its entrepreneurs. That may express itself in the form of government incentives for startups (e.g., tax breaks), an embrace of diversity, and public recognition of, and pride in, the local startup culture. Reversing the decades-long decline in Tacoma’s entrepreneurship and incubation of talent requires city leadership and community partners to rally together to build strong startup ecosystems. 

Small tech business owners can work together to create a vibrant tech scene. Startup ecosystems are the key to growing a vibrant regional economy. Time and time again, these clusters of talent and science drive job creation and new business formation, and attract investment capital. Ultimately, these are the elusive ingredients that lead to greater prosperity and equity in local communities.

Conclusion 

In 1991, The Economist described Tacoma in these terms: “A smokey [sic] industrial Sparta next to the high-tech Athens of Seattle.” The unfortunate reality is that nothing has changed. Tacoma remains a struggling industrial city that rejoices once it brings in a call center to offset job losses like occurred with the departure of Russell Investments. The city needs to stop fighting for companies like State Farm to keep their call center open in Pierce County and fight to encourage home-grown entrepreneurs to start their companies here.

One of the key questions facing cities like Tacoma – whose second largest sector is retail – is whether their local industries will rebound from the economic shock posed by the global pandemic or sustain lasting damage. 

The novel coronavirus has radically changed demand patterns for products and services across sectors, while exposing points of fragility in global supply chains and service networks. Industry has been shifting toward the use of more automation and technology, COVID-19 has just hastened the pace. This shift will call for substantial investment in workforce engagement and training in new skills, much of it delivered using digital tools. Tacoma should look to utilize the COVID-19 crisis to revitalize its economy and prepare itself for greater success in the future. Cities that step up their game will be better off and far more ready to confront the challenges and opportunities of the new normal than those that do not. Investing in Tacoma’s future will help rejuvenate the economy and improve the economic recovery from the ongoing pandemic, thereby improving the quality of life for residents of Tacoma and Pierce County, as higher paying jobs are brought to the local community and tax revenue is increased.

Looking ahead to possible growth sectors in technology, Tacoma should, at a minimum, be poised to become a hub for cybersecurity. With a strong university system pumping out computer science and cybersecurity students, cyber companies like Infoblox already in Tacoma, and public infrastructure such as the Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), Tacoma can become a hub of world class research and entrepreneurship, and an engine of job growth in the fields of cyber and tech. 

Tacoma’s existing startup community welcomes the opportunity to work alongside the Tacoma City Council, the office of Mayor Marilyn Strickland, and the Economic Development Board to build a thriving startup ecosystem. In an effort to provide a starting point, Tacoma should look to engage with influential stakeholders across the community to establish a working advisory group that can produce a framework of recommendations and action items to move the city forward to the future. 

David Kirichenko currently works in the tech sector for Amazon and is a Global Shaper with the World Economic Forum. David also played a role in the founding of RAIN Incubator, a biotechnology nonprofit that is dedicated to training talent, creating jobs and attracting companies to the South Sound Tacoma area.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. The city government and the “insiders” have to get out of the circle and stop just talking to each other. Terrible decision to turn the old Winthrop Hotel into a low income housing project – city had the chance to bring Powell’s Books to old Woolworth Building downtown but gave it instead to the city manager’s (not current) buddy for a warehouse …. the insiders talking to insiders …example after example of this kind of stuff … change needed and the public needs to be brought in ….New York’s program of funding worker’s coops and worker buy outs??? The TNT going to a hedge fund … no local buyers ….could go on and on!

  2. The city is in desperate need of reforms. We need to rejuvenate the city! The leadership of Tacoma has been dragging the city down for decades. We can start with a tech transformation and improve the lives of all its citizens.

  3. Focusing on tech equity can help to improve the well-being of all social classes within Tacoma and the greater Seattle region. We should have a tech transformation, but lets make sure that Tacomians are at the forefront and we achieve it with tech equity and social equality in mind.

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