You read that correctly, this column is in praise of the Seattle City Council. At a City Neighborhood Council meeting last month, Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin pointed out the key priorities of the council in the coming year. The first priority was outlined as 'economic recovery' with an emphasis on job creation. Job creation is the hot ticket item for both parties at all levels of government in 2010 and for good reason of course. Yet, one should be a bit skeptical about the type of jobs that the council is seeking to create. To some, watching the City raise revenue in order to add to or sustain the handsomely paid middle-management positions at Seattle Department of Transportation does not look like a true effort at job creation.
However, the council has a plan to grow the private sector in Seattle. President Conlin explained that the City has secured about $46 million in federal funds for business development. Conlin explained that the council intends to use the money to both prop up existing businesses and to encourage future business investment in Seattle. The council wants to use the funds in a way to also meet the objectives of the City. One of the long-term objectives is to make Seattle carbon neutral. He did not set out any specific details about how the money will be applied per se. He did give an example of a company that the council is seeking to bring to Seattle from Olympia. The Olympia company manufactures parts for electric car batteries.
This small business with big potential would like to grow and it would like to make Seattle its home. The council recognizes that and would like to bring them and the revenue that will come with them to Seattle.
This is not the first time as of late that the council has seized an opportunity to expand the business sector in Seattle. Late last year Mayor Nickels offered Russell Investments the same business and occupation (B&O) tax exemptions that it has in Tacoma, thereby prompting the biggest private employer in Tacoma to pack its bags and move to the WaMu Center on Second Avenue. The offer that got Russell to move here was a change to the B&O tax code. Mayor Nickels, with the approval of the council, created a new classification of B&O taxes for 'international investment management services,' which encompasses Russell. Russell does not have to pay Seattle's 0.415 percent B&O tax for services and other business activities. Instead, it pays a lower percentage of B&O taxes. Conlin was quoted as saying that the council did not do anything to swindle Russell away from Tacoma other than offer them the same tax structure they already enjoy. He is right. Russell was looking for a different location and the council seized a business opportunity to get the major, 900-person company to choose Seattle.
Some may think that Seattle is just poaching businesses from other regions across the state and calling it good because they are still playing fair and are growing a green economy. Whether it is theft, good business sense, or the nebulous pursuit of carbon neutrality, the council should be praised for their recent efforts at growing Seattle's private sector.
The fact of the matter is that the council has the foresight and apparent motivation to allow the private sector to grow. Who knows, the next Bill Gates may be living in Centralia and just waiting for a chance for his or her advancement in green technology to take flight.
We are fortunate in this instance to know we have a city council that appears to want to make Seattle a platform for private business growth, which will benefit the state in the long run.[[In-content Ad]]