Can the Northwest Build a New Economy Transportation Sector?

That was the topic among regional transportation experts in a recent WCTA meeting facilitated by Byron McCann.  We do have a surprising number of strengths–and weaknesses–in the area.  Of course, there are a number of opportunities and threats, too.  So, to make some sense of some of the discussion, I have endeavored to summarize many of the thoughts here into at classic SWOT analysis:  What are the Pacific Northwest’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats when it comes to the development of a new economy transportation sector?

Please comment!


  1. Digital expertise
  2. Consumer demand for greener transportation
  3. Development of charging station infrastructure
  4. Great research institutions
  5. Expertise in materials
  6. The cost of electricity is low
  7. Military presence as potential leaders and buyers
  8. Entrepreneurism
  9. Developing battery technology
  10. Specialty manufacturing
  11. Aerospace expertise
  12. Telematics firms
  13. A trade association (WCTA)
  14. Truck manufacturing


  1. Not enough wins…yet
  2. Little primary sector expertise—Seattle isn’t Detroit
  3. Capital—particularly big capital


  1. Heavy truck manufacture
  2. Conversion technology and companies
  3. Developing regional EV entrepreneurs
  4. Solar powered cars??
  5. State participation: fleet purchases/involvement


  1. Other regions buying out successful startups

Conclusion:  There may well be portions of a new economy transportation sector that we can develop in the region that might become transportation sub-clusters.  Digital applications in vehicles, expertise and validation in converting vehicles to new sources of fuel, and almost any aspect of heavy trucking are possibilities….

3 thoughts on “Can the Northwest Build a New Economy Transportation Sector?

  1. I actually think Seattle is positioned to be a major adoption center for this technology due to its unique demographics, demonstrably effective public-private partnering and diverse technology-oriented economic base. The upper limit is the relative population size compared to other larger progressive population hubs. Yet, in spite of that, of the EV Project Federal grant dollars, Seattle received a comparable portion to that of California. In addition, Oregon and Washington took the lead in the West Coast Green Highway initiative and secured significant funding there as well.

    I believe the market diffusion is happening and can not be readily accelerated. We, collectively, have a lot to learn and will do so by practical experience. The next 10 years will be exciting and our region will be a central theater of involvement. As an industry practitioner, I recognized some time ago that I am privileged to live in the market hub for EV! I had several corporate opportunities to leave, but remain convinced of this area’s viability for adopting this technology and being on the forefront of integrating it into our communities.

  2. Your summary (below) is a good Clean Transportation outline.
    I would add or emphasize that we have –

    1. Customers – PNW interest in Green efforts supports customer (consumer and business) demand in Seattle/Bellevue (Washington, Portland (Oregon), and Vancvouver, BC.
    And we have the wealth (MS, McCaw, Allen, etc.) to support that demand.

    2. Relevant Clusters
    Software/Datacomm/Wireless/Systems Analysis – Seattle/Bellevue is the 2nd largest US technology cluster.
    Sustainable Aviation Fuels Network (SAFN) = Green fuels forair, ground, & sea.
    Aerospace (Boeing & Olympia-Bellingham aerospace supply chain) = light weight vehicle expertise.
    “Disruptive Retail” – Costo & Amazon are two disruptive business model players.
    Clean Transportation requires some disruptive models (really).
    Philanthropic foundations (Gates et. al.) to support effective PNW Clean Transportation and export successful models.
    Effective relevant associations – the WCTA, WCC, NW Energy Angels, CTO, etc. can provide the necessary context and support.

  3. I will only refer to automotive in my following comments.

    I agree on all fronts, but we are not as innovative as we like to think. we have a rather conservative mentality compared to California.

    1. we are too far from Washington, DC to take advantage of federal help
    2. we have been a collection of individuals more so than a true community when it comes down to organizations and enterprises.

    1. There are many reasons why a company like Tesla should have been born here or should be here now. Elon Musk successfully started SpaceX and Tesla. Maybe we could convince Jeff Bezos (who already started Blue Horizon) or alike to venture in that direction?
    2. take advantage of the proximity to Japan (and China)and encourage them to come invest here – in some ways like VW and many others did in the South East.
    3. Explore and explode composites and carbon fiber based technologies, since we have a lot of excellence here in that field.

    1. US is no longer a leader in any automotive sector: cars, trucks, motorbikes. Europe and Asia is where many of the innovations in the automotive field are taking place. The customer base of US car companies is low compared to Europe – the most expensive US car is maybe $45k if you exclude specialty sports cars, which do not exceed $100k either. Furthermore, the US OEM’s are weak financially and economically. It is very difficult to get innovations into a product if the OEM’s are not open or able to incorporate them.

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