By Jim Davis
The Evergreen State leads in innovation
Great Britain and the United States fought in two wars. A third one almost
erupted in an out-of-the-way place in what is now Washington state. It involved
an argument over a pig.
American settler Lyman Cutlar in 1859 shot and killed a large black pig rooting
in his garden, a pig owned by an Irish farmer. The incident occurred on
San Juan Island, then disputed territory between the two nations. The British,
who had a nearby base, threatened to evict all Americans from the island.
In response, the Americans sent in an expeditionary force to the area.
Tensions rose between the warring camps until Washington, D.C., and
London realized what was happening. Leaders in both governments quickly
de-escalated the crisis over the murdered pig. No human casualties were
involved in what came to be known as the Pig War.
Nowadays, Washington state is no longer involved in global conflicts,
but it is reshaping the world in other ways. Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon,
Zillow and Redfin all have major presences in the Evergreen State and are
changing how we work, travel, shop and live.
Those companies provide tens of thousands of high-paying jobs in and
around Seattle, the state’s largest metropolitan area. Those jobs have
helped boost the median household income in the state to $70,310 in 2016,
ranking Washington among the top 10 U.S. states in that measure.
Property prices have risen robustly in many parts of the state due, in part,
to increasing demand for housing propelled by a growing population.
The state’s population has increased by more than 600,000 since 2010.
Rising property values also are attributed to stringent land-use laws and
natural barriers that constrict how much development can occur outside of
cities. With development on the edges restricted by laws, bodies of water
and mountains, Seattle has built upward, leading the nation in the number
of cranes towering over the skyline for three years.
Washington is among the top three states in the U.S. for global exports,
behind only California and Texas. The state shipped $77 billion worth of goods
abroad last year.
The Evergreen State does face some challenges, however. The Puget Sound
area routinely ranks among the worst in the nation for traffic. The unemployment rate was 4. 6 percent as of this past July, 0.7 percentage points higher
than the overall U.S. rate.
There’s handwringing over Amazon looking to build a second campus
elsewhere. The angst comes, in part, as Boeing has had a long history of
moving operations to other states. In addition, Washington has an estimated
population of more than 7. 4 million — with about 11 percent of the population
living in poverty. n
What the locals say
“If I worry about one thing more than anything else in this
state, it’s housing affordability. At some point, companies say …
‘Seattle you’re great, but I can open up a presence in Boise,
Idaho, or Spokane, Washington, where housing costs are half
to two-thirds cheaper.’ That doesn’t apply to companies like
Amazon and Microsoft and these guys. They’re doing just fine.
It is something that does concern me. Unfortunately, I do not
believe today we have the political will to address these
substantive problems of zoning and land use.”
Chief economist, Windermere Real Estate
Home sales and prices
Like most states, Washington was hit hard during the Great Recession
and real estate prices dropped dramatically. The central Puget Sound
area, including King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties, with more
than half of the state’s population, saw single-family home prices
plunge more than $100,000 from a median sales price of $381,170 in
2007 to $261,310 in 2011, according to statistics from the Northwest
Multiple Listing Service.
Home prices in those counties have risen steadily since the recession and,
as of September 2018, the median sales price for a single family home was
$484,950. Housing affordability has become such an issue that the city
of Seattle passed a controversial “head tax” on jobs in the city to pay for
affordable housing and homelessness. That tax was later rescinded in the
wake of a political backlash.
Home Sales and Prices in the Puget Sound Area*
Source: Northwest Multiple Listing Service
Home sales Median sales price
*Includes single-family homes in King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties
**Through Sept. 12, 2018