Opinion

Breathing life into Federal Way | Andy Hobbs

“He who’s not busy being born is busy dying.” — Bob Dylan

For a moment, let’s think of Federal Way as a living being.

The city has grown quite a bit since its birth as a remote logging outpost. Perhaps affordable housing encouraged the city’s cells (otherwise known as people) to divide and multiply, becoming some 90,000 strong today.

As the city grew, so did its infrastructure and amenities. Federal Way built more schools, paved more roads, hired more workers, lobbied for more money and so on, all on a self-propelled quest to create a healthy place to live, work and play.

Much like other living beings, including humans, Federal Way’s social status ranks above some cities and below others. The city is more appealing and productive than Aberdeen, for example, but not nearly as rich and sexy as Seattle.

If we think of Federal Way as a living being, then the economy must surely represent the city’s heart. And when the heart stops beating, the city dies. To wit, consider the decline of the once-vibrant automotive industry and its effect on Detroit.

Growth is the surest sign that life, at the moment, is conquering death. The Great Recession has killed a few cities while leaving many more gasping for air. In fact, the recession marked the end of a growth spurt, albeit an abnormal one. The mighty economic branches that sprouted during the housing boom in the early 2000s have since dried up and fallen off.

The economy, both in Federal Way and nationwide, is sick. With that in mind, does a medical device business incubator represent a cure for Federal Way’s economic ailments?

In 2010, Cascadia MedTech Association launched in Federal Way to help transform start-up businesses into major players in the medical device industry. As more businesses link with Cascadia, more jobs and financial opportunities will grow in Federal Way.

Cascadia can breathe new life into Federal Way by fostering the growth of a citywide business cluster. This term refers to a collection of like-minded businesses within a specific geographic area. A famous example is the gambling cluster in Las Vegas.

As more medical device businesses prosper, they will need support in the form of attorneys, office space and manufacturers, to name a few. One of Cascadia’s primary goals is to help the businesses grow, then bring all or part of those operations to Federal Way.

In short, Cascadia is creating opportunities within Federal Way’s borders, sidestepping the service economy in favor of industries that produce and export. As the medical technology cluster grows, so will the city’s tax revenue, retail market and skilled labor pool. That growth has the potential to increase Federal Way’s current budget of about $40 million.

Let’s refer back to the idea of Federal Way as a living being. This medical technology cluster could certainly become another vital organ, or perhaps a stronger pair of legs for the city’s economy.

If growth is the opposite of death, then a medical technology cluster has the potential to steer Federal Way toward a healthier life.

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