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The Seattle MSA accounts for 1.93 million jobs and has an estimated gross metropolitan product of $218.77 billion ( The largest employer in the city proper is the University of Washington, with 28,188 faculty and staff and 43,504 students (autumn, 2009 FTEs). The University has annual revenue of $3.7 billion and annual research funding of $1.2 billion (2009 Annual Report).

Aerospace has long been a key industry in the Seattle area, thanks to the Boeing Company. Aerospace employs 82,000 people (including 7,000 engineers) statewide, produces annual revenue of $32 billion, and includes a cluster of 650 companies. The region is home to final assembly operations for Boeing’s 737, 747, 767, 777 and 787 aircraft. Local educational institutions have developed specialized curricula and programs to provide the expertise needed for the aerospace industry. Boeing also produces the P-8A Poseidon in Renton and through Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary, is working on a Small Tactical Unmanned Air System Tier II project for the U.S. Navy.

Information and communications technology (ICT) companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Real Networks generate annual revenue within the State of Washington of $13.6 billion and account for a total of 186,800 ICT jobs. A recent study of ICT jobs in the Seattle/King County area identified 50,400 in software publishing, 25,400 in computer system design and 9,100 in wireless telecommunications. Seattle area video game companies generate more than one third of the $10 billion annual revenue attributed to the game industry nationwide. The Seattle MSA is a leader in Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and is home to companies such as Impinj and Intermec. The region is also emerging as a world leader in cloud computing and virtualization through the presence of Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Parallels, Skytap and Symform.

The clean technology industry in Seattle/Washington State accounted for 61,775 jobs in 2009 in the sectors of energy efficiency, renewable energy, reducing pollution and pollution cleanup. The sectors of wind, solar, biomass, wave/tidal and geothermal energy employ 17,000 people in an estimated 2,008 companies that received $635 million in venture capital investments in the 2006 to 2008 period. Washington State has the largest coordinated hydro-electric system in the world, providing 73% of the state’s electrical power. Seattle City Light (city owned utility) has been carbon-neutral for several years.

The Life Sciences Discovery Fund supports a thriving life science industry in Seattle (biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, global health and agriculture-energy-environment). Washington State created the fund in 2005 as a $350 million commitment to life science research over a 10-year period. According to a Washington Research Council Life Sciences Economic Impact Study (Nov. 2009), the life science industry generated $6.4 billion in revenues in 2008 and accounts for more than 22,000 direct jobs.

Healthcare (hospitals, healthcare products and services, training and research), accounts for 96,000 jobs in Seattle and annual revenue of $10 billion. Collaboration among professionals in healthcare, biotechnology and information technology has led to new developments in bioinformatics (using databases/algorithms to enhance biological research) and health informatics (using computer technologies for the collection, storage, communication and optimal use of health related data).

With an endowment of more than $36 billion, the Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a major supporter of Seattle’s global health and biotechnology industries. Foundation funding helped the University of Washington move the Departments of Genome Sciences and Bioengineering into a new, shared facility and helped establish a Department of Global Health run jointly by the Schools of Public Health and Medicine. The South Lake Union biotech area near the University benefits from a $15 million biotech incubator and close proximity to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Institute for Systems Biology, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Seattle office), Amgen’s Helix Campus on Elliot Bay, the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Pacific Northwest Research Institute, the Infectious Disease Research Institute, PATH (Program for Appropriate Technology in Health), the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute and the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason.

A marine technology sector accounts for annual revenues of $1.7 billion, a labor force of 7,600 and annual exports of $167.7 million. It includes 100 boat-building firms and 41 ship building/repair firms statewide. The Arts sector includes 3,578 arts-related businesses employing 18,493 people (according to a 2007 Creative Industries Report by Americans for the Arts). Seattle is the center of a thriving gourmet coffee industry (Seattle-based Starbucks is known worldwide); a dynamic recreation equipment sector (thanks to organizations such as the Mountaineers and companies such as K2 Sports, REI, Filson and MSR); and the nation’s largest marine and fisheries sector (fisheries exports from Washington State exceed the total of all other U.S. states combined based on both value and weight). Other important sectors are wood products, transportation equipment, food products and apparel design.

The Seattle region now includes 35 wineries with more than 80 acres of vineyards. The Puget Sound appellation breaks down into sub-areas of Woodinville, Seattle and North Sound. Statewide, 400 wineries and 350 grape growers comprise an industry valued at $3 billion annually. Leading reds are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Leading white varieties are Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

Major facilities of the Defense Department, one of the largest employers in the region, include Joint Base Fort Lewis McChord (south of Tacoma), the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (Bremerton), Bangor Naval Submarine Base and Naval Station Everett. Statewide, military and defense supported 191,000 jobs and $12.2 billion in total output for FY 2009 (PSRC Prosperity Partnership Newsletter Sept. 13, 2010).

Cluster Employment

Number of full and part-time positions (not including resource or construction)

  2000 2008 2009
Aerospace 91,000 83,900 84,400
Clean Technology 2,000 20,900 20,500
Information Technology 87,700 106,500 109,000
Life Sciences 19,100 22,500 22,400
Logistics & Int’l Trade 40,800 43,700 40,100
Military n/a 127,400* -
Tourism/Visitors 95,100 104,200 97,900
TOTAL 335,700 381,700 374,300
Source: PSRC, Prosperity Partnership. Estimates are for covered employment, except Military, which was estimated from U.S. Department of Defense data and surveys of Puget Sound military installations. * 2007 Estimate. Source: Puget Sound Regional Council.
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