WASHINGTON'S LEADING BUSINESS MAGAZINE

Economic Forecast 2011: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

From technology to real estate, local watchers see the signs of the recovery.
|   January 2011   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION

emerging in “biomimicry.” Theoreticians and innovators pursuing this field say that the central idea is the conscious emulation of nature’s genius. Their description of the opportunities relates to duplicating natural processes to contribute to sustainability practices. Important questions are: How does life around us make things? How does life make the most of things? How does life use systems? The technologies that nature reveals stretch across multiple possibilities such as self-assembly, solar transformation, quenching thirst, separation of entities, green chemistry, timed degradation, resilience and heating, and sensing and responding. Startups already exist to exploit several of these areas.

A Sound Cleanup • William D. Ruckelshaus, Co-chair,
Joint Ocean Commission Initiative

The big challenge ahead in restoring the health of Puget Sound is to successfully grapple with the non-point source pollution problem. Runoff from city streets and other impervious areas in our big urban centers, as well as direct runoff from suburban and rural areas, will continue to plague the health of Puget Sound unless we can find a viable solution.

The solution includes three major undertakings:

1) providing a plan and funding for the major infrastructure changes necessary to solve urban runoff problems;

2) low impact development requirements that will ensure any new development in the region is done in a way that minimizes its impact on Puget Sound; and

3) the adoption by local watershed groups of the responsibility for protecting, restoring and maintaining the health of their watersheds.

All three of these efforts are under way and we simply must stay at it if we are going to restore Puget Sound.

A Better Job Market, But Only Gradual Improvements • Josh Warborg, District President, Robert Half International

As we head into 2011, employers continue to remain cautiously optimistic about hiring. Many organizations are bringing in skilled professionals on a temporary or project basis to help maintain productivity and ensure that key initiatives are on track until the economy rebounds.

The companies that are adding staff are taking the time to look for individuals with diverse skill sets who can perform a broad range of tasks. Positions in accounting and IT such as business analysts, web designers and ERP technical developers are poised to see some growth in 2011. On the administrative side, we’re seeing gains in customer service and health care.

A Merger Boom • Michael Butler, CEO, Cascadia Capital

There will be a substantial increase in mergers and acquisitions in Washington state in 2011. The activity will be driven by an improved valuation climate, tax incentives, a thawing of capital and debt markets, and the aggressive return of cash-rich private equity and strategic buyers who are seeking larger and more deals. Based on these trends, we predict 2011 will deliver more than 250 M&A transactions in Washington state with an aggregate value of more than $20 billion.

For the sustainability industry, we predict 12 to 15 or more transactions (of both companies and assets) that will result in an aggregate value of more than $1.5 billion. For the IT industry, we predict 75 transactions that will result in an aggregate value of $3 billion. For the middle market, we predict over 100 transactions that will result in an aggregate value of $7.5 billion.

Finally! A Real Estate Thaw • Craig Kinzer, Principal and Founder, Kinzer Real Estate Services

After three very manic years, we expect 2011 to bring the beginning stages of recovery with more transactions. This optimism is in large part due to the probability that interest rates will stay relatively low. The flight to quality will largely be over by 2012, leaving a bifurcated market creating carnage at the lower end of the property spectrum. There will be little new construction but supply will effectively be added with the delivery of build-to-suit options for Amazon and the Gates Foundation and recapitalization of buildings whose valuations were underwater.