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Let’s recap some good economic news

As we start another week let me mention three things that made last week good from the perspective of economic resiliency.

1. The M’s, Danny and My New Coat. I got to meet Danny Bonaduce. OK, at best you’re thinking, “What does Danny Bonaduce have to do with economic resiliency?” I could start by just saying that Danny himself is a lesson (probably many lessons) in resiliency, but my main point is that I met him at the grand opening of the new Carhartt store downtown. Carhartt chose Seattle for their fifth retail location in the United States. The opening is a nice vote of confidence in Seattle, a place where many workers, whether they’re toiling on a fishing boat or in front of a computer screen, probably sport a Carhartt jacket. The company remains family owned and CEO Mark Valade was there with Danny and Edgar Martinez. The CEO and Edgar were given sledge hammers to do Carhartt’s version of the ribbon cutting — smashing through a panel of drywall. And in a flashback to the old days, the hammer flew out of Edgar’s hands both times he swung.

Thanks to Carhartt for choosing Downtown Seattle. Danny, KZOK’s morning host and new Seattle resident, was charming, by the way.

2. The Tile Project, Barista Training & Education, YouthTech, YouthBuild, and the Civic Justice Corps. YouthCare, this area’s premier agency getting youth off the streets and into safe shelter and housing, held its annual fundraising lunch this past Thursday. One thousand people attended at the Westin and witnessed moving testimonials of loss, change and triumph, as well as a stress dream play out before their eyes. The “pitch” man, the guy tasked with motivating us to give, was the leader of Youth Care’s Youth Build program which trains 30 formerly homeless young people a year in basic construction in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and South Seattle Community College. He started off strong talking about how the participants learn more than just how to hammer, they learn to work as a team with “one heart beat” and every time something “real” happens on the work site someone can call it out, “one heart beat” and the rest of the team claps in unison. He did such a great job taking us to that moment that he lost track of his speaking points. He blanked. Completely. Untethered.   For more than a minute.   And it was fine.   Another YouthCare staff person strode up with a fresh set of his speech notes and then he was back on track.

I loved that they highlighted YouthBuild in the pitch. YouthCare’s many skill-building and employment training programs capture young people resilient enough to survive and who need a whole new set of skills to make it as adults in the job market.

3. B&G Machine revamps humungous engines in Seattle. I ended the week with a field trip to B&G Machine in Georgetown. B&G is owned by the Bianchi family now which purchased it after operating a small machine shop in Columbia City years ago. B&G refurbishes huge diesel engines. Lots of them. We looked at engine blocks and crank shafts the size and length of a Volkswagen. Johnny Bianchi, who runs the company now with his brother and dad, explained that much of their business comes from mining companies opting for a 4-6 week refurbishment over a 72-week wait for a much costlier new engine. He says they’re even getting engines shipped to them from China because B&G does the careful work involving cleaning, grinding and calibration so much better than any shop closer by in China. We could have jumped over to their other location in the area to see (and hear) the retooled engines tested, but ran out of time.

Industrial advocates argue, and I think they’re largely right, that we (Downtown people) underestimate the vitality of the industrial sector in Seattle because it’s not in front of us every day the way some other office building industries are and, even when you’re in an industrial area, driving by a warehouse you don’t really have any idea what might be happening inside. As B&G has expanded they’ve had to be resilient in many ways over the course of decades of City regulatory decisions. The park with the Hat & Boots and a P-Patch just south of B&G received solar protection when B&G built out a few years back, but the decision came late in B&G’s design work, meaning they slanted the back roof line and can’t make full use of the inside space under the lower ceiling. Trade-offs. They’re also proud owners of a drainage retention system that may never connect to anything in the street. But just in case we ever build the new line in the street, they’ll be ready.  That’s a hard one to explain to people.

Thanks to B&G for being in Seattle, for being great at what they do, and for the tour.

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