Microsoft’s breathtaking expansion project affirms the Puget Sound region’s capacity for continued growth and reinvention.
The company announced Wednesday a multibillion expansion that includes 18 new buildings, fields and parking on its main Redmond campus east of Highway 520.
This should not be taken for granted.
Cities, states and nations are desperate for this sort of economic development, especially by a leading company in a clean industry. Heads of state plead for Microsoft to open a single office and could not imagine the company building a small city’s worth.
Microsoft will add the capacity for 8,000 additional employees on its campus, although much of the new space may be filled by people now working in offices that Microsoft currently leases in Bellevue.
The next challenge for the Eastside and the rest of the Puget Sound region will be to nurture other companies to grow into the next giants and continue attracting other companies.
Comparisons are inevitable with Amazon’s building spree in Seattle.
One way to look at it is to marvel at how both Microsoft and Amazon continue to innovate and sustain their growth by creating new, multibillion-dollar businesses.
Microsoft’s construction project is a physical manifestation of this process.
As it continues its transition into a provider of online services, Microsoft is building more open and expansive offices. They’ll replace the formerly futuristic, X-shaped buildings where it produced software that dominated the personal-computer era.
It’s also enlightening to look at Amazon’s decision to open a second headquarters elsewhere.
That happened in part because of concerns about the business climate in Seattle proper, including the city’s poor job planning for growth that was clearly coming when Amazon submitted its development proposals.
Microsoft also brought disruption and community transformation, particularly when it surged in the 1990s.
Eastside officials learned from this experience. Microsoft’s more recent expansions, over the last decade, were more easily absorbed because of thoughtful planning and regional coordination. That includes road, highway and transit expansion concurrent with growth and careful placement of new housing density within urban hubs.
Such efforts are now paying off. Redmond has infrastructure and housing capacity in place or in process for all the potential growth Microsoft’s new project will generate. Construction of the 18 new buildings is expected to finish around the same time a light-rail station is scheduled to open at its campus in 2023.
The region is blessed to have such companies. They create opportunity and employment for residents and newcomers attracted by their dynamism and success creating world-changing products.
With good infrastructure and gleaming campuses on both sides of Lake Washington, municipal boundaries become less important and all meld into the Greater Seattle region.