Continuing a recent trend, Seattle has claimed the title of the nation’s fastest growing big-city based on newly-released data from the U.S. Census Bureau, according to The Seattle Times. Seattle grew by over 21,000 individuals in the previous year, or approximately 3.1%, and is now home to over 700,000 residents. (Over the previous year, Seattle had ranked as the fourth fastest growing city; it only passed 600,000 residents in 2009.) For long-time residents, the draw of the Pacific Northwest’s unofficial capital is undeniable: a mild (if rainy) climate, a laid-back lifestyle, a booming high-tech economy, and abundant natural beauty in the form of easily accessible mountains, beaches, and both fresh water and open ocean. The artistic community that has long thrived in the area has attracted national and international acclaim, further solidifying Seattle’s image of cool.
Of course, such rapid rate growth also creates inherent challenges. By adding the average of 57 new residents daily, the difficulty of managing Seattle’s infrastructure and development has become more acute. Part of the issue is physical: the natural beauty that Seattlites and visitors alike have long celebrated makes for an especially challenging management issue due to the physical limitations imposed by Puget Sound and the surrounding area. But also at risk is the long-standing cultural and social fabric that has, ironically, served as an attraction to so many newcomers. Also concerning is the cost of living increases, particularly housing, in the tight Seattle property market.
But unquestionably, Seattle’s long-standing status as a proudly counterculture icon is creating considerable buzz and attention for many positive reasons. Close links with the many multinational companies that call the area home – including Microsoft, Starbucks, and Amazon – and a vibrant regional economy have served as powerful job generators, and newcomers have been able to somewhat offset the high cost of housing with high paying positions at some of those and other more Pacific Northwest-oriented companies. A robust research and development sector across numerous industries has also contributed to this growth with knowledge economy-based jobs. Like the city’s iconic Space Needle seems to indicate, for Seattle’s population, the sky is the limit.