“Seattle’s Technology Alliance held a networking event for technology and finance professionals from the Puget Sound on Sept. 11.Jim Crabbe, co-founder of the Tacoma Network, was one of the professionals representing businesses from America’s #1 Wired City at the event. Jim and I discussed the similarities and differences between the networking scene in Seattle and Tacoma:Jamie: As a co-founder of Tacoma’s largest technology networking forum, you bring credibility to a discussion on the difference between networking in Tacoma and Seattle. What is your experience with networking in Seattle?Jim: I have regularly attended Seattle Network meetings since their second meeting. I’ve also attended the Technology Alliance meetings. I’m in Seattle at least once a month.Jamie: How do business relationships differ from Seattle to Tacoma?Jim: Up north, business is done on a purely logical and formal basis. People evaluate the pros and cons of a proposal and make decisions based on that. In Tacoma, people make their business decisions based on relationships, and then they weigh the pros and cons and make a decision. The relationship is a very important part of the business decision in Tacoma.Jamie: Would you say that Tacoma’s networking scene is essential to doing business?Jim: Yes. The networking scene created by the Tacoma Technology Consortium, Washington Software Alliance and Tacoma Network has been a catalyst for why Tacoma’s technology scene is doing as well as it is. Before, businesses weren’t aware of the services available in Tacoma.Jamie: How would you compare the Tacoma networking scene to Seattle?Jim: It is still in its infancy.Jamie: How do you see the scene maturing?Jim: New economy businesses and professionals need to take more of an active role in the community outside of the technology scene.Jamie: Is that prevalent in Seattle?Jim: The tech crowd up north is very involved with general community, policy direction and charities.Jamie: What is the Tacoma Network doing to address this issue?Jim: We are holding a food drive for Thanksgiving starting in October.Jamie: Are there any other differences between the networking scenes?Jim: Yes. The companies in Seattle take a very active role in the network groups. Corporate involvement is very important.Jamie: Have you seen that type of commitment from any companies in Tacoma?Jim: Most local companies have contributed by spreading the word and telling the story of Tacoma. We’ve really seen some active support through sponsorship of events. Some companies have donated a lot of time. My employer, Web-X, donates much of my time to the Tacoma Network. IDmicro is another example of a local company that has contributed by speaking at an event. Jamie: What about the cultural differences between the two networking scenes?Jim: Tacoma is much more family oriented, because business is based on relationships. It is a tighter knit community. You see more executives, CEOs and business owners attending networking functions in Tacoma compared to Seattle. In Seattle, networking attendance is composed mostly of sales and marketing professionals with a few CEOs from younger companies. Jamie: Lets talk about the increasing number of people driving from Seattle to attend Tacoma’s networking functions. Have you seen an increase?Jim: Definitely. A third of our crowd is from outside of the Pierce County area at every event. We are always seeing new faces.Jamie: What types of professionals are traveling from Seattle to the Tacoma Network?Jim: Venture capitalists, a couple of different dot coms, engineers, and corporate visitors like Oracle and Cisco have all attended recently. They want to build the relationships necessary to do business in the South Sound.Jamie: What about the glamour of Seattle’s networking events?Jim: That is more of a city related question. In Seattle there is access to huge, grandiose spaces for events. Tacoma is developing those spaces through the Thea Foss Waterway development, construction of the Museum of Glass, the new art museum, and a new convention center. If I had access to those locations, I would definitely hold Tacoma Network functions there.Jamie: Do you see events like the one that took place at the EMP occurring in Tacoma in the future?Jim: Yes, definitely. Especially once Tacoma is established as a city of the arts.Jamie: As you describe the maturing of Tacoma, can you tell me what you envision as the result of this?Jim: I see this city as being a focal point for arts and technology on a global scale. The large investments in both infrastructure, community events and services, the introduction of the arts, and a strong investment in technology can do nothing but grow the local economy.Jamie: Thanks for sharing your vision.Jamie Chase is the vice president of public and investor relations for ContractQuest, a developer of wireless and PC-based workgroup tools and on-line communities for associations.Jim Crabbe is co-founder of the Tacoma Network, a high-tech networking and advocacy group, and is director of sales for Web-X, a web application development company based in downtown Tacoma. “
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