Seattle's a Fashion Industry Player

| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

Seattle's high-tech, biotech and aerospace clusters are familiar to us all, but mention that the region also has an impressive fashion-design cluster and you're likely to raise a few eyebrows. After all, isn't this the place best known for Gore-Tex and grunge?

Turns out that Seattle ranks fourth—behind New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco—as a major area of fashion design and apparel talent. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Seattle has 240 fashion designers as defined by occupation codes, a high concentration. And those designers are the elite corps of an industry that supports more than 50,000 jobs in Washington state. In 2010, Enterprise Seattle, formerly the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County, published an Apparel Industry Cluster Study that made the case for encouraging its growth and development. And that was before Seattle-based Amazon.com dramatically ramped up its fashion presence online by making apparel a major focus of its e-commerce scheme.

“We identified 500 to 700 fashion headquarters companies in the greater Seattle area,” says Karen Leonas, who worked on the study. She is a professor and chair of apparel merchandising, design and textiles at Washington State University.

To be sure, Seattle’s fashion presence is tiny compared to New York and Los Angeles, which boast large garment districts. Most designers still fly to Los Angeles to attend shows and buy their fabrics and other supplies. And there is a noticeable absence of widely attended fashion shows and trade shows here at which designers, suppliers and buyers can meet and mingle.

But some of that situation may be changing. A long-running Northwest fabric show that once catered largely to quilters will open its first exhibition later this month as the renamed Seattle International Textile Expo. Producer Steve Matsumoto hopes the trade show will allow more apparel makers to source supplies from local representatives. And while you won’t find many Seattle designs on Paris runways, there is a growing community of innovative designers popping up in the region.

“We are seeing designers right out of school who are designing impeccable, classy clothes,” says Eduardo Khawam. Khawam produces Metropolitan Fashion Week, a newly launched event that will include three fashion shows later this month showcasing 30 to 35 designers, more than two-thirds of them local.

Seattle is hardly new to the apparel industry. The city has designed and manufactured clothing since about 1898, when prospectors heading for the Alaska gold rush stopped here for provisions. For years, firms like Eddie Bauer and Filson provided classic, sturdy outdoor clothing that was widely distributed and admired. The region also has a long history as a supplier of animal pelts and is the home of the American Legend Auction (formerly the Seattle Fur Exchange), North America’s largest auction of animal pelts.

But the “fashion” industry here really got going in 1973, when Walter Schoenfeld, head of a small Seattle neckwear company, saw a pair of faded blue denim slacks in the window of a London shop. He tracked down the designer, found the manufacturer and created Brittania jeans as fashionable alternatives to the dark denim Levi’s that were so prevalent at that time.

Schoenfeld sensed a hot trend and ran with it. In less than 10 years, Brittania Sportswear was selling 30 million pairs a year and Brittania—Schoenfeld spelled it that way to distinguish his brand from the Royal Yacht Britannia—had a team of 40 to 50 designers and about 400 employees in Seattle. Schoenfeld sold most of his shares in the business in the early 1980s. He says the label is now owned, but unused, by North Carolina-based VF Corp., which also owns the Vans, Lee, Wrangler, Timberland, Nautica and JanSport labels.

But the Brittania legacy endures. The team Schoenfeld put together went on to start other companies that today are part of a business cluster generating about $16.4 billion in revenues annually, mostly centered in the greater Seattle area. Excluding retail, the sector encompassing apparel design, manufacturing, wholesale and corporate headquarters generates more than 17,000 jobs and contributes $6.7 billion in revenues.

Consider Seattle Pacific Industries, the privately held company that produces Unionbay, Saltaire and other labels sold throughout North America and Asia. Stephen Ritchey, president of Seattle Pacific, is a Brittania alumnus. Like most of the region’s apparel companies, its sportswear is made in Asia, shipped to Seattle and distributed from here. The company’s Seattle location is no accident. “We can bring products into Seattle faster than competitors in the Midwest or East Coast [can],” says Ritchey. “Our port is less crowded than Los Angeles and, logistically, Seattle is better for moving product in and out of Asia.”

Seattle businesses were among the first in the United States to use the local design/offshore labor model. The approach has continued to evolve to adapt to an industry where fashions can change overnight. “Our development time,” Ritchey says, “has been reduced by half [in about five years]. Everything is designed on a computer [and] electronically transmitted to the factory for execution.” This approach means fewer trips to far-flung factories and a weekly flow of goods instead of deliveries every couple of months. Although manufacturing overseas means fewer jobs here, the work that does remain in Washington state tends to be higher-skilled design and merchandising positions that pay relatively well.

Tommy Bahama is another Brittania offshoot with a major presence in Seattle’s fashion scene. Tony Margolis and Bob Emfield had left Brittania and were working in New York and Minneapolis, respectively, when they decided the world needed some upscale casual wear for men. Their third partner, Lucio Dalla Gasperina, said he would join the new company, but wanted to remain in Seattle. In 1992, they launched an island-inspired menswear collection that has evolved into a sophisticated-meets-casual lifestyle brand for men and women, with a chain of more than 90 Tommy Bahama retail stores and 13 restaurants.

Still based in Seattle, Tommy Bahama is now a division of Atlanta’s Oxford Industries, which also owns the Lilly Pulitzer and Ben Sherman labels. The three founding partners retired in 2008 and New Yorker Terry Pillow was named CEO. Pillow says he was told he could stay in New York and run the business from there. But once he visited Seattle, he chose the left coast. Today, Pillow presides over about 350 employees in the Seattle area from a six-story headquarters building near Lake Union, still marveling at the differences between East and West Coasts.


Tommy Bahama CEO Terry Pillow, left, with  Rob Goldberg, senior VP of marketing, at the company’s Lake Union headquarters. Photography by Hayley Young

“The talent we’re able to attract here is incredible,” Pillow says. “In New York, everybody’s a specialist. Here, the designers have to be generalists. They’re responsible for everything from fabric design to buttons. They have a broader scope.”

Rob Goldberg, senior vice president of marketing for Tommy Bahama, calls Seattle “an intersection of creative ability” whose relaxed, casual ethic influences designers everywhere. “Seattle is a community of first adopters—people who want to know what’s new,” Goldberg says. “They’re more open. They’re risk takers.”

At Tommy Bahama, that creativity is apparent in the palm trees in the lobby and in rooms hung with fabric samples, color swatches and racks of clothing begging to be touched. On one floor recently, an artist sat at a drafting table overlooking Lake Union, painting an intricate design that will become the pattern on a silk shirt for the 2013 holiday season. Textiles are designed in Seattle, then manufactured in Asia.

Tommy Bahama sales for the first nine months of fiscal 2011 were $324.5 million, compared to $289.6 million for the same period the previous year. Operating income for the nine-month period was $45.4 million in 2011 and $35.4 million in 2010. In the past 10 years, the Tommy Bahama menswear design team has grown from 10 to 50 persons. New store openings in New York City, Chicago, Tokyo and Hong Kong are slated this year.

If there’s a theme here, parlaying good international relations into profitable assets would seem to qualify. Rajnikant “Raj” Shah and Akhil Shah have used their worldwide connections to create Shah Safari, a global fashion company headquartered on Roy Street at the base of Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. The Shahs were born in Kenya and came to Seattle as teens, sponsored by their brother, Shashi, who worked at Boeing. The brothers arrived via London, a supremely fashionable place in the early 1970s. When they came here to live with a local family and attend high school in Edmonds, they were wearing London-style threads that got them noticed. “People told us we should get into the fashion business,” Akhil recalls. A couple of years later, while attending Shoreline Community College, they did, founding their company in 1975.

“Gauze from India was just becoming a hot fabric,” Akhil recalls. “We got samples from our brother in London and showed the designs to Jay Jacobs,” the late owner of a trendy Seattle fashion store. Jacobs not only bought their gauze shirts, Akhil says, but he also embraced their ideas.

“That was the beginning,” Akhil says. Soon, Nordstrom was ordering shirts from Shah Safari. In 1983, the brothers cofounded another company, International News, with the late Mike Alesko, to address a more upscale clientele. Today, the brothers’ fashion empire includes apparel for men, women and children and it operates a group of men’s apparel stores called Road as well as Zebra Club, a retail mini-chain that allows the Shahs and clothing manufacturers to test new products. Zebra Club is thriving, Akhil says, with retailers from all over the country coming to Seattle to see how clothing is merchandised and what’s selling.

Nordstrom, of course, is the 800-pound gorilla of this story. More than a national fashion specialty store based in Seattle, it is a virtual fashion incubator with a product development group working atop its downtown Seattle flagship store. More than 300 people work in the group, creating “house” labels such as Zella, Caslon, Classiques Entier and John W. Nordstrom—brands that make up about 10 to 12 percent of the store’s offerings. Like most local designs, they tend to be manufactured offshore, primarily in Asia.

Private label merchandise is crucial to Nordstrom’s ability to stay relevant to customers by offering fashions exclusive to Nordstrom. Buyers can work directly with designers to give customers what they want and need.

REI is another Seattle-based retailer that’s boosting its in-house design team. After working for years with a pattern maker and sample sewer, it began expanding its design team around 2007. Director Sean Smith says REI now has nine designers and four interns. Smith predicts REI will be looking for more in the coming years.

Some apparel designers and wholesalers have small local footprints but wide distribution beyond Washington state. Galen Jefferson, for example, has been creating her Two Dog Island line of upscale women’s casual wear here since 1995. Working with just one assistant and producing in China, she sells two collections annually through independent representatives and regional apparel trade shows. The former Nordstrom executive—she was co-president of the company in the early ’90s—says her retailing background and familiarity with offshore manufacturing have made it easy for her to operate in Seattle. But she says production in China is becoming more challenging as wages go up and the cost of manufacturing increases accordingly.

Farinaz Taghavi has an office/studio/showroom in Pioneer Square for the collections of separates she sells to Nordstrom and specialty stores on the East Coast. In business for eight years, she says she produces goods in Vancouver, B.C., because it allows her to be “hands on”—to know the factory owner, pattern maker and those who sew.

Jefferson says she’s noted evidence of “grass-roots creativity” in Seattle that’s similar to the edgy, “garage-based” designers of Los Angeles, and she has observed local customers responding to it. To encourage such entrepreneurial endeavor, she’d like to see the resurrection of the apparel mart that once flourished as part of the Seattle Trade & Technology Center on Elliott Avenue—a place where many designers and companies could have showrooms, a one-stop place for retail buyers to scope out local offerings.

Some envision such a sector developing in the SoDo or Georgetown neighborhoods of Seattle, where many designers are based. One intermediate step may be the decision by the Pacific Northwest Apparel Association, which has operated the longest-running West Coast women’s wear show, to move to the Pacific Market Center to get a bigger exhibition space for its five-times-a-year show. The hope is that an infrastructure can develop to support the many designers that are popping up in the region but may not have the access to pattern designers and fabrics.

One thing that sets this region’s fashion sector apart is the networking and mentoring that takes place, often among competing companies. There is also a broad range of educational institutions providing talent for the industry. Washington State University has a four-year program with options in merchandising and apparel design. Leonas says WSU’s graduates understand everything from basic design principles to factory production and marketing; many of them are working in the Pacific Northwest as well as in Los Angeles and New York. Seattle Central Community College has been graduating apparel design students for more than three decades. The Art Institute of Seattle and the International Academy of Design and Technology in Tukwila also offer classes in fashion design.

The Northwest’s apparel industry, according to the Enterprise Seattle study, is very much a “second tier” region when comparing its impact to that of New York and Los Angeles. New York has 10 times the national average of fashion designers; L.A. has five times the national average. Seattle has 1.2 times the national average. Still, for Seattle to trail only San Francisco among the second tier of cities with fashion industry clusters is remarkable, given that the sector is very much a “work in progress” according to Jody Crow, a 30-year veteran who has worked in product development for Nordstrom, Cutter & Buck and four blue jeans companies. She also owned her own active sportswear company, one of the first to offer clothing that incorporated a rayon-spandex blend.

What does Seattle need to improve?

Ironically, for a region that has such a high concentration of technology businesses, local fashion companies have been relatively slow to adopt technology. Crow now teaches clients how to use Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software, which gathers and maintains the technical details that go into manufacturing a garment. “It means we can communicate all that info to overseas manufacturers without an email or a FedEx package to them,” Crow explains. “A design team here can send info to the Far East late in the afternoon and have manufacturing teams working on the projects when they arrive at work the next morning.” Crow predicts Seattle’s apparel industry will evolve and “continue to be a hotbed of new companies.”

Schoenfeld, the man who gets a lot of the credit for putting Seattle on the fashion map, sees no reason why the city shouldn’t be second to New York. That may be more of a stretch than all the spandex in the world can enable, but stranger things have happened. Who could have predicted the phenomenon that is Amazon.com?

In fact, Amazon has become a major player in fashion retailing with its entry of MyHabit.com into the web-based flash-sale realm pioneered by such “stores” as Ideeli, RueLaLa, Gilt Groupe and Haute-Look (which Nordstrom acquired last year). It’s not unusual these days to see Amazon advertising for fashion stylists, uniquely embodying Enterprise Seattle’s suggestion that the fashion sector leverage the Puget Sound Region’s technological assets.

Will all of this make the world forget grunge fashion? Probably not, since everything lives forever on the internet. But embracing technology could go a long way toward realizing Schoenfeld’s vision of Seattle as an even bigger player in fashion.

To that point, Chris Mefford, principal author of the Enterprise Seattle study, says, “Our region is so strong in information technology that any industry that can leverage it for growth and transformation is an industry we should be focused on. The fashion industry is at the forefront of that application right now, and we need to foster integration and partnerships that leverage that talent to support the fashion and design firms.”

 

Growing the Sector
According to Enterprise Seattle’s fashion sector study, local fashion and apparel leaders and stakeholders believe that retaining Washington’s best design talent and fashion entrepreneurs should be a lead strategy to growing the industry locally. Industry experts identified these addition strategies as useful.
 
Incubators. Creative, talented individuals rarely emerge as entrepreneurs backed with a depth of startup capital. Design incubators provide tools and resources at low cost to entrepreneurs. Fashion and apparel incubators foster synergy and collaboration.
 
Professional Networking. Established and emerging niches in the industry rely on creative exchange and collaboration. Industry leaders identified the need for networking resources, access to financing and expert training for international customs and business relations.
 
Training. Educational institutions can better prepare students to succeed by integrating business and fashion education.

Paine Field Ready for Takeoff

Paine Field Ready for Takeoff

Opposition continues, but Paine Field inches closer to commercial operations.
 
 

When Paine Field was built in 1936, nearly a decade before Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was completed, the 604-acre, fog-free unpopulated site 23 miles north of Seattle was envisioned as being one of 10 commercial “super airports” around the country. Originally called Snohomish County Airport — its name was changed to Paine Field in 1941 — the airport was a Works Progress Administration project designed as part of the New Deal to create jobs, drive economic growth in the Pacific Northwest and support a nascent aviation sector.

Shortly after opening, the airport was diverted for military operations during World War II, and again later for the Korean War. Snohomish County took over full management of the site and opened it for new commercial development in the mid-1960s, leading Boeing to establish a production facility for the 747 jetliner in 1966. By then, Sea-Tac had emerged as the region’s primary airport.

Now, 80 years after construction began, Paine Field is about to fulfill its original purpose as a commercial airport. Last year, Snohomish County approved plans for a commercial air terminal to be operated by Propeller Airports, a 5-year-old subsidiary of Propeller Investments, a private equity firm that invests exclusively in the aerospace and transportation sectors. When completed, the two-gate passenger terminal will be the first privately operated commercial air terminal in the country.

“This is a win for residents and businesses in Everett and Snohomish County,” says Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson. “Bringing a terminal of this quality to our community as a public-private partnership saves precious taxpayer dollars and offers considerable economic benefits.” He says the county looks forward to “helping travelers avoid hours of traffic and headaches.”

Initial operations will be limited to two dozen flights a day. Any expansion beyond that, which will require Federal Aviation Administration approval, will likely be vigorously fought in court by community groups in nearby areas like Mukilteo and Edmonds concerned about traffic, noise and property values.

Mukilteo’s mayor, Jennifer Gregerson, is pushing for a county charter amendment to create an airport commission to oversee Paine Field. While Mukilteo, whose eastern border abuts the airport, has no legal authority to stop passenger service, Gregerson wrote recently in a blog post, “We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that the full impacts to our community are heard and addressed. We will not stop in that mission, and the fight is not over.”

In that regard, the Port of Seattle’s effort to build a third runway at Sea-Tac is a cautionary tale. First proposed in 1992, it faced opposition from cities and communities neighboring the airport and encountered long delays and rising costs. The third runway finally opened in November 2008 and cost $1 billion, more than four times the original estimate.

But the forces arrayed in support of Paine Field are building. The FAA concluded in 2012 that commercial airplanes could use Paine Field without significantly affecting the neighborhood. Jet engines are much quieter today than they were two generations ago, and Paine Field officials say the noise level meets federal guidelines within the footprint of the airport itself. In fact, the noisier aircraft tend to be private planes that use the only runway that takes them over Mukilteo. An opposition group, Save Our Communities, and two individuals filed suit to block commercial service on environmental grounds, but a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in March rejected the argument.

As Sea-Tac struggles to handle rapid growth (see story, page 41) and as vehicle traffic through Seattle faces gridlock much of the day, pressure to develop a second major airport in Washington state will continue to grow. Boeing Field — officially King County International Airport — is not a candidate as a relief airport because of conflict with the flight pattern into Sea-Tac. McChord Field, a military airport near Tacoma, is also mentioned as a possible option — Colorado Springs Airport south of Denver, for example, has combined military and commercial operations. But McChord is a key component of Joint Base Lewis-McChord and there are no plans or initiatives afoot to use McChord for commercial flights.

Besides, since Sea-Tac is already situated between Seattle and Tacoma, Paine Field is far better positioned to serve the growing number of residents who live in Seattle and to the north. The state Office of Financial Management estimates that, by 2025, the population of Snohomish County alone will grow to 1 million, up from 870,000 today.  About 4,700 travelers a day from Snohomish County depart from Sea-Tac, according to Port of Seattle passenger data from 2014 and 2015. Most presumably have to travel by highway through the center of Seattle to get there. 

 

A Long Runway
1. A WPA project, Paine Field was one of 10 “super airports” intended to spur economic growth during the Great Depression.

2. The site required tree clearing and leveling to ready it for runways in 1936.

3. Shortly after it opened, the airport was used by the military during World War II.

4. Alaska Airlines had a maintenance hangar at Paine Field in the late 1940s

It’s also difficult for communities in north Puget Sound to argue persuasively that Paine Field’s growth should be limited when the airport was there before most of the communities were established, and when the region’s economy has benefitted greatly from aerospace development around Paine Field.

It is now one of the largest manufacturing and service centers in the state, encompassing about 50,000 jobs. Boeing builds its largest planes at a Paine Field facility that is the largest building in the world. Other companies like Aviation Technical Services, which employs 1,500 workers doing commercial aircraft maintenance, also call Paine Field home and use its runways for their operations.

Although commercial flights will initially be limited to about 24 a day, Paine Field is already a busy airport. It handles roughly 300 flights daily, including large jetliners from the Boeing factory and small planes flown by private aircraft owners. The modern, FAA-operated control tower was built in 2003, more than doubling the size of the old tower, and it has the most advanced aviation technology in the industry. 

Propeller Airports is moving ahead — it has submitted its application to comply with Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act — and hopes to break ground on the new terminal by the end of this year. Flights could begin in late 2017.  

With commercial operations an apparent certainty, the issue now is growth. Asked to discuss the future, Propeller CEO Brett Smith is careful in his response. He says the company is “building its business model around a two-gate terminal, and beyond that, who knows?”

Opponents doubt Propeller’s ability to operate a terminal, given its lack of a track record, but Smith insists Propeller will create a “world-class facility worthy of this airport.” 

Propeller expects to make a profit from parking, concession, service and airline facility fees. 

Tom Hoban, CEO of the Coast Group of Companies, an Everett-based commercial real-estate and investment firm, is often described as the “father” of the effort to bring commercial service to Paine. He sees the two-gate operation as adequate for now. But, he adds, “If you think of the things the community could do to drive economic diversity and provide jobs for our kids, there is no better option than leveraging a public asset like Paine Field.”

If Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is one of the airlines that operates from Paine, Hoban says the community could not have a better partner.

He also disagrees with residents of communities opposing commercialization, predicting commercial operations at Paine Field will likely increase property values. He says commercial flights will provide businesses the ability to function in Snohomish County, attracting more demand. “The model is there,” he notes. “San Jose to SFO [San Francisco], John Wayne to LAX [Los Angeles]. It’s the low-hanging fruit.”

Propeller’s Smith agrees. “Is it going to be Sea-Tac north?” he asks. “No.”

But he believes the operation will provide a new and welcome experience for passengers tired of the Sea-Tac hassle. Propeller’s terminal will have a fireplace and comfortable seating areas. The nearby parking lot will offer valet service; arriving passengers will be able to send text messages to the lot and have their cars waiting in front of the terminal building.

Smith says Propeller will leverage what he calls “the incredible aviation infrastructure at Paine Field” to encourage further economic development and provide local travelers an airport option.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers says having a private company operate the airport not only provides substantial income for the county — the lease agreement calls for annual payments of about $450,000 — but also eliminates the risk of a publicly operated terminal. Under the 30-year lease, Propeller is responsible for building and maintaining a state-of-the-art, two-gate terminal, which would revert to county ownership at the end of the lease. 

Although neighbors have expressed concern about airplane noise, Paine Field Airport Director Arif Ghouse says it should not be a concern. “We have shown that the noise level is contained within the airport itself,” he says, meaning that noise levels above 65 decibels are not heard in neighboring communities. He notes that Paine Field already has many large commercial airplanes taking off each day as new planes come from the Boeing plant. The only difference between them and commercial flights, Ghouse says, is that “they’re just empty.” 

Future Destination
Propeller Airports, a private developer, is buldigna two-gate commercial terminal to serve Paien Field. It could open late next year. 

There is room for expansion at Paine. The airport already has about 80 acres north of the main runway targeted for development. The aim is to market the land to “aerospace” uses, Ghouse says. Expanded airline operations would certainly qualify as an aerospace use. 

Road access to the airport may be a more serious concern. There are two general access routes to Paine Field on crowded surface streets. Motorists trying to exit to Interstate 5 run into long lines when Boeing shifts end. Paine Field is scheduled to be on the Sound Transit 3 light rail expansion. An updated version announced in May indicates light rail would serve the airport (and Everett) by 2036.  

No airline has publicly announced flights from Paine Field, but two have shown strong interest. Bobbie Egan, an Alaska Airlines spokeswoman, says there is a need for another commercial airport in the region. Asked about Propeller’s lease and plans, Egan says, “If there is an airport built there, we would take a strong look at service there.” In a 2013 proposal to the FAA, Alaska suggested operating 98 flights a week from Paine Field to Portland, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and other West Coast destinations. 

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, which operates flights from Bellingham to Oakland, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Las Vegas and Phoenix, has also expressed interest with the FAA but says it has no immediate plan to fly from Paine Field. 

Paine field has three runways, the longest more than 9,000 feet and used mostly by Boeing for its large, wide-body jets. The runway length means it can handle almost any size aircraft; the longest runway at Sea-Tac is about 12,000 feet. A second runway at Paine is much shorter, about 3,000 feet, and is used mostly by small private aircraft — about 650 private planes are based there. The third runway, 4,500 feet long, is used as a taxiway and for Boeing to park unsold aircraft.

Paine Field also is a major tourist destination. The Future of Flight Aviation Center and the associated Boeing factory tour attract 350,000 people a year. The Museum of Flight Restoration Center and Reserve Collection also call the airport home, along with Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage Collection. Two community colleges operate facilities there, training students for jobs in aviation.

The question that’s still hard to answer is how Paine Field can grow fast enough to help shoulder part of Sea-Tac’s increasing load. “As part of our master planning, we have always recognized the region is going to eventually need a reliever airport,” says Sea-Tac spokesman Perry Cooper. But 24 flights a day at Paine won’t do much to relieve congestion at Sea-Tac, which currently averages more than 1,000 flights a day.

One pressing issue is the real challenge faced by the Port of Seattle at Sea-Tac. If it stumbles even slightly in its plan to enlarge the airport, the resulting bottleneck would affect the region’s economic growth and send business elsewhere. 

Another major regional airport would provide the answer. In 1936, Paine Field was envisioned as a “super airport” serving the region. It now seems as if fulfilling that vision is the only practical alternative to serving the area’s growing transportation needs.

Who Was 'Top' Paine?
Paine Field is named for Topliff O. “Top” Paine, who was born in Ohio in 1893 and moved with his family to Everett in 1903. A graduate of Everett High School and the University of Washington, Paine was a ranger with the U.S. Forest Service when he joined the Army in 1917 upon the United States’ entry into World War I. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1918 after completing flight school. He was discharged in 1919 and became a commercial pilot in California and Mexico. In 1920, he joined the Post Office Department’s new Air Mail Service, becoming one of the top pilots in its Western Division. He died in 1922 when his revolver accidentally discharged. The Earl Faulkner Post of the American Legion suggested Snohomish County Airport be named in Paine’s honor in April 1941.