When Boeing moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago in 2001, it started a trend. “While historically the head office of a corporation was off the table [when it came to relocation], now it’s in play,” says John Boyd, a Princeton, New Jersey-based site selection consultant. Unfortunately, Seattle, as the 13th-most-expensive city in which to situate a headquarters, is unlikely to win much of that business. A company headquarters with 500 employees would cost $41.4 million a year to support in the Seattle area. That amounts to 15 percent less than in New York, but about 25 percent more than in Indianapolis. The results are from a study Boyd’s firm did comparing 50 cities in Canada and the United States.
Washington state remains tempting for many other kinds of business operations. Low-cost hydropower, for example, makes it the perfect place to build data centers, allowing companies to market their services as green, says Boyd. And the region’s proximity to Asia and the presence of a large Chinese American population will make it appealing to Chinese companies as they begin to build a United States presence for manufacturing or distribution.
The region is also attractive to Canadian companies that are exploring locations in Washington to take advantage of the cheap U.S. dollar. Aerospace suppliers to companies such as Bombardier, in particular, would find the state a good bet.
Boyd sees Washington building a strong expertise in composites. Too, the Seattle and Tacoma areas will benefit from frustration shippers face with regulations and traffic at ports in the Los Angeles area. Bringing in biotech companies, however, will remain a challenge in spite of Washington’s strength in medical research, Boyd says, because so many states offer incentives to attract companies in that sector.