OPINION: The Pacific Northwest thrives with collaboration (Puget Sound Business Journal)

September 30, 2019
Greg D'Avignon

For nearly a century, the Peace Arch has proudly straddled the Washington-British Columbia border, symbolizing what the people of the Pacific Northwest have always known: We are better together.

We take pride in the strengths of our corner of the world — unsurpassed natural beauty, a high quality of life and innovative spirit, diverse communities, a skilled workforce and strong global ties. Yet, when we look to the future, we see daunting challenges on the horizon. How do we accommodate our growing population? How do we confront the impact of a changing climate? How do we ensure a strong economic future and provide opportunity for everyone?

Over the last decade, we have experienced unrivaled economic growth, in part because we are a leader in technology, academic research, life sciences and more. However, with this success have come real challenges like homelessness, transportation congestion and a shrinking supply of affordable housing.

Four years ago, a set of leaders recognized that these challenges are not just Washington’s or Oregon’s or British Columbia’s. Rather, they belong to all of us. Their conclusion? Why work alone, when we can do better together?

In 2016, this coalition of leaders from the business, government, nonprofit and academic sectors came together to launch the Cascadia Innovation Corridor Initiative. This initiative brings together leaders from across the Cascadia megaregion from Vancouver, B.C., to Portland, Oregon, to work on the issues that will define our shared future. Megaregions, as they are known, are at the forefront of economic competition and civic problem-solving and can be seen at work from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil, to the Texas Triangle. But few megaregion efforts have reached across international borders to embrace a truly global future.

To facilitate this unique cross-border collaboration, the Business Council of British Columbia and Challenge Seattle are leading the CIC Initiative. We have brought together a steering committee of U.S. and Canadian experts who are advancing initiatives in key industries — life sciences, technology and sustainable agriculture — while addressing critical issues from transportation to workforce development. They are creating new partnerships in education, transportation, business and more to achieve results that none of us could accomplish alone.

Our three renowned cancer centers are now collaborating to prevent, treat and find cures for cancer.

Our preeminent schools of forestry are researching new approaches to prevent and respond to forest fires.

Our governments are jointly studying ultra high-speed transportation, housing affordability and broadband.

Our tech sector is incubating breakthroughs in quantum computing that will change the world while providing good jobs.

In early October, we will hold our fourth annual Cascadia Innovation Corridor conference in Seattle. It will be an opportunity to bring leaders together in one place to discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for our megaregion. CEOs from Alaska Airlines, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Boeing, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Zymeworks and Canada’s Digital Supercluster will share their perspectives on the economic, political and social landscape in which Cascadia competes. Leaders at the Puget Sound Business Journal, Geekwire and Daily Hive will debate how communications and media are changing our culture and the potential effects on our future. Our regions’ elected leaders will share their federal perspectives of the Cascadia Corridor.

Most importantly, we are engaging in a broader conversation with the public about the future of the Cascadia region. It is time for us to seize our opportunities and confront the challenges before us.

We are poised to invent tomorrow together.

As published in the Puget Sound Business Journal.

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