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State Farm expansion would be a big deal for Tacoma

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on April 4, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
April 4, 2013 4:50 pm

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

‘Like a good neighbor”? For downtown Tacoma, State Farm might be “like the best neighbor ever.”

Still stinging from the loss of Russell Investments, which had 1,100 employees at its peak about a decade ago, Tacoma now stands to gain about 2,000 jobs if State Farm expands on its existing presence in DuPont.

According to The News Tribune’s Kathleen Cooper, the insurance giant is finalizing plans to take over most of downtown’s vacant Class A office space: the former Russell headquarters (a 12-story building at 909 A St.) and four floors of the Columbia Bank Center, which DaVita will leave when it moves to Federal Way. Leases have yet to be signed as of this writing.

Adding that many new jobs to its workforce would make State Farm the third-largest private employer in Pierce County behind MultiCare and Franciscan health systems. Currently it is ranked seventh.

This would be a huge get for Tacoma –  truly a “game changer,” as one downtown businessman put it.

Bringing in such a large employer would have far-reaching positive impacts for the city. It would provide customers for downtown businesses, which have been hurting since Russell’s departure. It would inject life into the home sale and apartment rental markets, as many of the new employees likely would want to live close to work. And it would broaden the city’s tax base, a boon for individual taxpayers that might even pay to fill a few potholes.

But more important are the intangible benefits of landing such a reputable employer. Not only would it be a morale boost for downtown, it would send a signal to other businesses that Tacoma’s got what it takes to attract a Fortune 500 company like State Farm (it was ranked No. 43 in 2012). Companies that might not have considered coming to Tacoma would be more likely to give it a look.

Of course, bringing that many people downtown on a daily basis would provide challenges for the city’s traffic and parking infrastructure. But the State Farm operation reportedly would be an initial loss reporting center that would be open around the clock, seven days a week. That would spread out the impact and have the added benefit of bringing people downtown at times when there usually aren’t a lot of other workers – and traffic.

Here’s hoping State Farm and the City of Tacoma are able to make the plan work. This new neighbor is more than welcome to take up residence.

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