Seattle area’s economic boom splashes over the Cascades, bringing work and worries

My latest in The Seattle Times 

For Subsplash, a small Seattle-based maker of social apps for churches, the decision to open a second campus in Wenatchee this fall was easy. The Central Washington town has better weather than Seattle. It boasts fast internet, lower labor costs and business-friendly government: Subsplash’s new offices are in a city-sponsored business “incubator” in the popular Pybus Public Market overlooking the Columbia River. And, of course, Wenatchee has much cheaper housing. The median price for a home is $325,000, or less than half of that in Seattle.

As Phil Goodman, head of human resources at Subsplash, put it recently, “Wenatchee is kind of our HQ2.”

But not everyone in Wenatchee is so excited to see the newcomers. At a local hiring fair this spring, as Goodman was telling locals how glad he was to see businesses “coming over [from Seattle] to Wenatchee and providing jobs,” he got some good-natured pushback.

“There were a few people who were like, ‘Well, hold on, don’t tell too many people. We don’t want too many companies over here,’ ” he recalled.

It’s a common refrain across much of Central Washington these days. As eager as towns like Wenatchee, Chelan and Cle Elum are for new industry and high-wage jobs, many residents also wonder what these urban “refugees” will mean for communities that are often already struggling with big-city growing pains.

Read the article in The Seattle Times

 

 

Politico: This Is What Happens When Bitcoin Miners Take Over Your Town

 

Eastern Washington had cheap power and tons of space. Then the suitcases of cash started arriving.

 

EAST WENATCHEE, Washington—Hands on the wheel, eyes squinting against the winter sun, Lauren Miehe eases his Land Rover down the main drag and tells me how he used to spot promising sites to build a bitcoin mine, back in 2013, when he was a freshly arrived techie from Seattle and had just discovered this sleepy rural community.

The attraction then, as now, was the Columbia River, which we can glimpse a few blocks to our left. Bitcoin mining—the complex process in which computers solve a complicated math puzzle to win a stack of virtual currency—uses an inordinate amount of electricity, and thanks to five hydroelectric dams that straddle this stretch of the river, about three hours east of Seattle, miners could buy that power more cheaply here than anywhere else in the nation. Long before locals had even heard the words “cryptocurrency” or “blockchain,” Miehe and his peers realized that this semi-arid agricultural region known as the Mid-Columbia Basin was the best place to mine bitcoin in America—and maybe the world.

 

Read the rest of the article in Politico Magazine