The quick takeaway of the visit is that the Seattle and Minneapolis regions share similar profiles, overachieve in many of the same areas and face similar challenges. Both regions are innovation driven. Our areas also embrace urbanism and the natural settings in which they abide. The similarities between Minneapolis and Seattle are even more pronounced since the ICLV group first visited the Emerald City 12 years ago.
One takeaway was the vitality of the both cities' visitor industries. Both Minneapolis and Seattle have as many as 3,000 new hotel rooms in the pipeline in the near term. Tom Norwalk, CEO of Visit Seattle, shared some his organization's initiatives, including one called Seattle in Two Days, where a diverse set of visitors were invited to Seattle to experience unique aspects of the city. These visitors were then asked to share their impressions via video that now resides on the Visit Seattle website as a third party endorsement for other potential visitors to view. Meet Minneapolis' Minneapolis in 24 Hours promotion is a meeting-planner-focused site experience that’s also meant to shape opinions and buying decisions.
Seattle's sports commission is a part of its CVB, just as it is with Meet Minneapolis and its Sports Minneapolis affiliate. Seattle is growing by leaps and bounds in international arrivals. International tourism is Seattle's fastest growing segment of business and China is their number one international market.
Our respective corporate communities excel, as well. Boeing, for example, has enough orders for their workhorse 737 aircraft to keep them busy for the next six years. Corporate citizen Amazon is looking to add 4 million square feet of office space. Not to be outdone, our region holds on to a nation leading 3.1% unemployment rate. Seattle is at a very respectable 4.3%, well below the national average.
The business and civic leaders of Seattle were also very candid about their challenges. They reported that Seattle has about 10,000 homeless persons of which 3,000 may not have housing on any given night. The Seattle community has a growing educational achievement gap and an economic disparity that Seattle King County Executive Dow Constantine calls a "bifurcated economy." Evidence of this bifurcation is the fact that since the year 2000 more than 90% of the 85,000 households added to King County had household incomes of either over $125,000 annually or under $35,000 annually.
Our region's business and civic communities are equally as candid about our vulnerable areas such as the troubling educational and economic achievement gaps. Both regions have deployed massive resources to stem the tide of issues that could stifle growth and future prosperity.
Both regions are bracing for a potential massive workforce shortage spurred by a wave of retirements and that growing educational achievement gap. The Silver Tsunami is the moniker given to describe the upcoming retirements of more than 40,000 people from Boeing.
Numerous officials with whom we interacted in Seattle acknowledged the striking similarities and enjoyed hearing about our successes and challenges just as much as they enjoyed sharing their own. In short, our regions share tremendous mutual admiration for what we have already accomplished as well as what we are sure to achieve moving forward.