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Technology Corridor: History worthy of remembrance | History Files


Last updated 2/20/2020 at 9:42am

Driving near Paine Field recently, I saw a sign for the Technology Corridor. I didn’t realize any of those signs still existed. For the Technology Corridor is mostly forgotten, and although it is not ancient history, it is history.

As the “History Guy” on YouTube says: “It is history that is worthy to be remembered.”

The Technology Corridor was mostly in Snohomish County and stretched from North Creek in Bothell to Seaway Center in Everett along I-405 and Highway 525. The Technology Corridor was novel in that it came into being when competitors decided to cooperate.

Newly developed business parks were striving to find tenants. People decided that they would all get more tenants if they worked together. This was in the 1980s.

They were looking for high-tech tenants, biotech tenants, and biomedical tenants. There was no real history of tech companies in the area at that time. True, Boeing was near them on the north by Paine Field, and Microsoft wasn’t far away to the south. And along the route were Fluke, Eldec, and ATL Ultrasound.

But in many ways, the name was more of a wish than an expectation. Some might say it was a “big tall wish,” like Henry Temple wished for Bolie Jackson in “The Twilight Zone.” A Technology Corridor in Snohomish County in the 1980s was optimistic.

But it worked.

By the early 1990s, the business parks that started it were full, and they had been joined by other business parks of the like-minded. The farms in Canyon Park and North Creek became farms for innovation instead of cows. The marketing program promoted the infrastructure, skilled workforce, and favorable business environment.

Promotion of the Technology Corridor was passed on to the Economic Development Council and eventually sort of drifted away. The Economic Development Council itself ceased to exist and was replaced by the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County. And somewhere through all of that the promotion of the Technology Corridor became just a whisper, and then silence.

But there on my drive was a sign for the Technology Corridor still in place, probably forgotten by whoever placed it there.

Did it work?

Well, it worked for the developers who wanted to rent out their former farms. And there is evidence that it worked to create jobs for Snohomish County as well. There are now companies that are worth $20 billion plus in market capitalization anchoring either end of the Technology Corridor. (Market capitalization is calculated by multiplying the value of one share by the total numbers of shares.)

Seattle Genetics is in Canyon Park in the south end of the corridor, where there were once cows, and is now worth $20 billion. Fortive is now in Seaway near Paine Field on the north end, where once coyotes and deer roamed, and is worth more than $25 billion.

At the time of the creation of the Technology Corridor, Boeing was the most valuable company in the state, headquartered in Seattle, and it was worth less than $20 billion. Boeing is now headquartered in Chicago. Fortive and Seattle Genetics have come in as substitutes.

Early settlers in Snohomish County were bent on economic and population growth. Neither of those prospects is so popular anymore. The Technology Corridor echoed the dreams of early settlers, and may have been a dream itself.

Thriving businesses and that sign that started me thinking are evidence that it once existed.


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