Cherese Bourgoin made the decision to establish her own hair salon two decades ago, and since then, her shop in downtown Kirkland has remained in the same location. Nowadays, her daily commute involves riding her electric bike through the bustling city center, enjoying the scenic views of the shoreline adorned with beaches and lush greenery.
She describes Kirkland as a place with a small-town charm and atmosphere, although she acknowledges that it has grown to become a medium-sized city that maintains a neat and tidy appearance.
In recent years, several suburban cities have been attracting talent and companies due to the lifestyle amenities they offer to employees and the relatively lower operational costs for employers. A study conducted by The Boyd Co., a corporate site selection consultant, revealed that these factors have become more appealing post-pandemic.
Based on data requests received by the firm and considering cost variables, the study ranked 30 corporate destinations in the post-pandemic era. Among these cities, Kirkland and Everett were the only two in the Northwest region that made the list, according to a report in the Puget Sound Business Journal.
In an interview, Principal John Boyd of The Boyd Co. stated that many companies are currently adopting a wait-and-see approach. However, he believes that once the economy starts rebounding, numerous office projects will emerge in these cities.
An increasing number of companies are embracing the concept of regional headquarters to enhance brand awareness and access a geographically diverse talent pool. The growing trend of hybrid work allows companies to establish smaller decentralized offices throughout the country, providing administrative support to a downsized flagship office. This approach, known as the “hub and spoke” model, has gained popularity, while large corporate campuses have become less favored.
The operating costs for a new Class-A head office in the 30 suburban cities mentioned in the study are significantly lower than in larger cities like Seattle. According to the study, the annual operating cost for a 75,000-square-foot corporate office with 200 employees is slightly above $20,000 in both Everett and Kirkland.
Additionally, Everett and Kirkland boast the lowest property tax rates among the 30 cities analyzed, with rates of $11.20 and $8.71 per $1,000 valuation, respectively. These favorable operating costs make the cities prime targets for emerging and established industries, according to Boyd.
Moreover, both Everett and Kirkland benefit from their proximity to Seattle, a global magnet for talent from around the world. Despite its challenges, Seattle remains a center of gravity, adding to the location advantage of the two cities.
In terms of housing prices, Everett offers a median single-family home price of $615,093, which is 30 percent lower than Seattle’s prices, as reported by Zillow data from April. The Eastside markets typically have home prices exceeding $1 million.
Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin points out that this price advantage works in favor of her city. She acknowledges that Everett faces a significant structural deficit that has affected its ability to provide services to residents. The city leadership sees economic development through business attraction and retention as not only valuable but essential.
Mayor Franklin states that her goal is for Everett to emerge as the winner in the pandemic recovery. Ongoing conversations with major companies regarding economic development are in progress, although the timing of these conversations coming to fruition remains uncertain.
Notable developments have taken place in Everett, such as the $500 million funding raised by fusion energy startup Helion in 2021 for their next-generation fusion generator, and the opening of a facility by TerraPower, backed by Bill Gates, during the pandemic. Paine Field Airport, which launched commercial flights prior to the pandemic, anticipates serving over 4 million passengers annually over the next two decades.
Mayor Franklin believes that these new assets, which were previously nonexistent, are reshaping perceptions of Everett and attracting companies to the city.
In Kirkland, where Google already occupies two campuses but canceled plans for a third location earlier this year, the city administration expressed confidence in the emergence of similar redevelopment opportunities in a news release.
For Cherese Bourgoin, who assumed the role of interim CEO of the Kirkland Chamber of Commerce in March, new businesses signify a thriving community. She emphasizes that there is room for new businesses in Kirkland and expresses openness to potential partnerships with both large and small companies. Bourgoin hopes to see an increase in the number of businesses establishing themselves in the city.