“Tacoma hosted an international visitor this past Wednesday. Austrian, Martin Zehentner, creative director for Net Communication Management, a firm planning a high-tech business park near Salzburg, toured the city with Tacoma’s Economic Development Officer, Merten Bangemann-Johnson. After visiting Click!, the duo sat with Jon Taber, President of ContractQuest and myself to discuss the business climate in Tacoma.Zehenter’s interest lay in transferring what he referred to as the, Tacoma model, to Salzburg, Austria. The Tacoma model is the jargon used to describe Tacoma’s high-tech led economic success. In asking Taber to address his primary concern about implementing this model Zehentner inquired, Once all the building space in Tacoma is filled what will stop city officials from raising taxes? Both Taber and I pointed to numerous investments made by the city to attract high-tech businesses. It would be detrimental for the City to retroactively destroy the high-tech led economic development Tacoma is experiencing. Mayor Ebersole reports that the City invested $100 million in building Click! Network. This initial investment in the Tacoma’s infrastructure was met with a counter investment of $200 million by private businesses including AT&T and US West. In the investment world that is an incredible return ratio. The City’s investment was a tremendous risk. In working to ensure Click!’s success, city officials exerted great efforts to partner with various sectors of the community including the education, entrepreneurial, real estate, investment, and private sectors. This success strategy produced a different type of investment from the City. Congressman Adam Smith, Mayor Ebersole, the City Council and economic development leaders have invested their intellectual capital in establishing Tacoma as a technology destination.Mayor Ebersole asserted initiatives to increase educational opportunities for Tacoma’s students through Chance to Go. This visionary program set out to support Tacoma’s growing need for a skilled workforce.Congressman Adam Smith is at the forefront of supporting local technology. After bringing nine members of Congress to Seattle in August of 1999, he decided it was necessary to create the same economic buzz around the South Puget Sound. As a result the South Sound Technology 2000 was created. This conference was successful in placing Tacoma at the fore of technology.Smith works diligently on a national level to create an economic climate supportive of technology business. His creation of the Technology Advisory Council enables members of the high-tech sector to communicate their needs to the government. One might think this opportunity is open to a privileged few in the high-tech community. Representatives from Smith’s office claim that is not true. Several of Tacoma’s entrepreneurs have taken advantage of this forum including Tony Ginn of Iwebhatch.com.As a founding member of the New Democratic Coalition, Smith is playing an increasingly influential role on high technology. The coalition’s E-genda 2.0 proposed the recently passed digital signature legislation. In speaking to Zehentner, Taber pointed to government contributions such as this legislation as providing a commitment to high-tech businesses. The digital signature enables creation of binding contracts over the Internet. This is a valuable feature for conducting business online.Smith is also leading the charge to bridge the digital divide. His E-genda states, The use of technology should provide opportunities for all Americans to compete and win in the new economy.Creating an online business atmosphere with equal opportunity for all persons serves as an investment in Tacoma and the nation as it serves as a global role model. Melanie Denise Cunningham, President of Phenomenal Women in Action, represents the African American community of Tacoma as she states, This is welcomed news that our government is taking strategic steps to implement systems to eliminate the digital divide.Taber closed this conversation with our international guest by stating, With this amount of an intellectual and financial investment it is unlikely that the government would raise taxes after luring businesses to Tacoma.He continued, It is impossible for Tacoma to trap the high-tech companies. Raising taxes or conducting unfriendly business with the high-tech sector would work to drive out the businesses attracted to Tacoma’s connectivity and low rent. We will continue to see a local government supportive of high-tech led economic development. It is too easy for businesses to move to the next town offering a better deal.With that said, I pointed Zehentner in the direction of the City’s latest contribution to Tacoma’s technology climate, E-business Day. I noted the involvement of Congressman Smith, Mayor Ebersole and the Chamber of Commerce is the type of support Jon described.Their recognition of Tacoma’s high-tech businesses at this event is purely philanthropic in nature. I suggest it is the technology community that should be patting them on the back!”
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