Gates' Legacy Also Transforms A City - InformationWeek
IoT
IoT
Mobile // Mobile Applications
Commentary
6/26/2007
05:59 PM
Richard Martin
Richard Martin
Commentary
50%
50%
RELATED EVENTS
Building Security for the IoT
Nov 09, 2017
In this webcast, experts discuss the most effective approaches to securing Internet-enabled system ...Read More>>

Gates' Legacy Also Transforms A City

After reading the articles on Bill Gates' legacy by my colleagues John Foley and John Soat, I have to add an aspect that they left out: the profound reshaping of Seattle that was a direct result of Microsoft's ascendance. Has any individual (well, pair of individuals, since you have to count Paul Allen in this calculation) ever had a more profound effect on a large American city?

After reading the articles on Bill Gates' legacy by my colleagues John Foley and John Soat, I have to add an aspect that they left out: the profound reshaping of Seattle that was a direct result of Microsoft's ascendance. Has any individual (well, pair of individuals, since you have to count Paul Allen in this calculation) ever had a more profound effect on a large American city?It's hard to remember now, but in the mid-'70s, before Allen and Gates moved their fledgling company from Albuquerque to Seattle, the port city was sunk into a recession from which it seemed it would never recover. The plunging fortunes of Boeing, the energy crisis, and a drab and decaying downtown had turned the Emerald City into one of the country's most depressed (and depressing) cities. That was when the infamous billboard went up: "Would the last person to leave Seattle please turn out the lights?"

By the time I got to Seattle in 1994, Gates was an icon and the high-tech powerhouse across Lake Washington, in Redmond, had transformed the place into a center of wealth and culture to rival San Francisco, to the south. Not only were several of the people I met in my first year there "Microsoft millionaires," but I soon joined the MS gravy train myself, contracting for several Microsoft media properties (anyone else remember the expedition Web site Mungo Park?) before joining ABCNews.com, a Seattle- and Manhattan-based joint venture between ABC and Allen's original digital media "studio," Starwave.

A lot of those media properties went dark (and ABCNews.com eventually shuttered its Seattle newsroom), but the Microsoft effect continues to ripple through the city and the Puget Sound region. Thanks largely to Microsoft millionaires who retired young, Seattle has arguably the most vibrant arts and culture scene of any city of its size in America. Philanthropic institutions continue to enjoy the overflow from Microsoft's stock run-up. The Microsoft boom, along with the associated peripheral startups that perennially blossom and wither around the Sound, attracts a constant inflow of talented émigrés, particularly from South Asia, who add to the heady cultural brew of the place. Starbucks was not a direct result of Gates' business savvy, but it's safe to say that the caffeine addiction of countless 1980s software developers helped fuel the Seattle-based latte-maker's early growth.

And the real estate market in Seattle, led by the lakeside mansions that Microsoft wealth helped build, continues to flourish in the face of the nationwide housing slump.

I left Seattle reluctantly in 2000, partly because my wife couldn't take the climate. Now, if the Gates Foundation could just do something about the weather…

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2017 State of IT Report
In today's technology-driven world, "innovation" has become a basic expectation. IT leaders are tasked with making technical magic, improving customer experience, and boosting the bottom line -- yet often without any increase to the IT budget. How are organizations striking the balance between new initiatives and cost control? Download our report to learn about the biggest challenges and how savvy IT executives are overcoming them.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll