Tech recruiters say Bellevue is finding its inner cool among new workers, thanks in part to Seattle

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A rendering of the 555 Tower, a 42-story skyscraper with nearly 1 million square feet of office space and 28,400 square feet of retail space, one of Amazon’s new buildings in downtown Bellevue. (Vulcan Images)

Shawna Sverland recalls the days when it was hard to recruit high-end technology talent to Bellevue. The city, just 12 miles east of Seattle, was known as suburban, a bit audacious and somewhat corporate, said Swerland, the CEO. fuel talent, Bellevue was where your parents lived—not where 20-something tech industry climbers wanted to land.

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“I think, a while back, its reputation was not that high,” said Swerland, who has been in the recruiting business for 27 years.

“But it has really changed,” she said. “It’s a lot easier to get admitted to Bellevue now.”

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This trend is part of an ongoing tech boom at Bellevue. Seattle-based Amazon plans to have 25,000 employees in the DC area the same size as its second headquarters, or HQ2. Facebook is looking for more office space in the sprawling Spring District complex. TikTok parent ByteDance just raised its flag on Bellevue.

Seattle’s shadow city, often ridiculed on local comedy shows in the 1990s almost live To be fair and snooty—take this sketch Bellevue businessmen make fun of each other As they brag over lunch about a recent boat purchase—it now seems to be finding its inner cool, some say.

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“Now you can recruit young people to Bellevue and that wasn’t always the case,” Rob Meredith, president of business and recruiting consulting company Avro.

Information technology jobs make up the largest industry group in Bellevue, and also have the fastest growth rates over the past decade. ,Bellevue Economic Development Report, September 2021)

Meredith said downtown is an easy sell for a potential employee. “There’s a lot to do,” he said. “The quality of life is great. So many companies in the same area you can run.”

Or maybe, Bellevue is comparing well to Seattle at the moment.

National stories about protests, city council and police disputes, and tent cities didn’t help recruiters to keep people in Seattle. Bellevue, in turn, largely stayed out of the news.

“It feels safer than Seattle,” said Meredith, who grew up on nearby Mercer Island. Added Swerland: “There’s this perception that Bellevue is safer.”

According to the Puget Sound Regional Council, Bellevue is rapidly adding jobs with some of the fastest growth in the tech sector. Overall, the number of Bellevue-based jobs is projected to climb 20% over the next 20 years. Microsoft is currently the city’s largest employer, with about 9,000 people in its Bellevue hub, which is located just down the street from its Redmond, Wash., headquarters. Amazon is likely to take the top spot in the next decade.

PSRC reported that currently, 67% of the city’s residents work in management, technology, business, science and the arts.

Bellevue Economic Development Report, September 2021.

Tim Rogers, who is a part owner of staffing firm Quala and Concordis, said Bellevue’s name recognition is far better than it used to be. “It’s easier than ever to recruit out-of-state at Bellevue,” he said.

Ironically, Bellevue may have increased its appeal among young workers by becoming more like Seattle. Intensive urban centers such as the East Main and Spring District are expanding. City officials rave about walkability, restaurants, and entertainment options.

The city of 154,000 is currently as racially diverse as Seattle, according to the 2020 census, although less so economically. Mass transit is improving with the opening of five light rail stations in 2023. A 42-mile walking and cycling project – supported by a large donation from Amazon – is scheduled for completion in 2024.

These are the types of urban properties that typically appeal to young tech workers, said Tyler Jorgensen, who is 22. Jorgensen, a machinist, was recruited into the field from California last year.

He now lives in Kirkland and works at the Microsoft Advanced Prototyping Center. But while he likes aspects of both Kirkland and Bellevue, he doesn’t see himself remaining as an Eastsider.

“I think I’d love to live in Seattle,” he said. “Maybe Ballard or Fremont. There’s a lot of mixed-use zoning. Walking spaces. It’s really appealing.”

Bellevue Downtown Park. (Geekwire Photo/Kevin Lisota)

But that sentiment, the appeal of city life, generally seems less important to new recruits, hiring managers said.

Sean Sweeney, 26, was recruited a few months ago by Quala from Connecticut for a job at Microsoft in the area. He currently lives in Seattle but is thinking of moving to the Eastside.

“I love having a lot of houses and places there,” he said. “But mainly, I would like to be closer to the mountains.”

Rogers, owner of the staffing firm, who grew up in Beacon Hill and attended Garfield High School in Seattle, said Bellevue is known to be safe and clean. But would he have considered moving to Bellevue when he was 20?

“Oh, hell no,” said the 52-year-old with a laugh. “I won’t even think about it now.”

The fact is that while recruiters all say that it’s easier than ever to recruit workers at Bellevue and that Seattle’s perceived decline has been a factor, they all agree that hiring in any city is a big question because employers are remote. Let’s try to find the balance of Vs. work in office.

According to housing statistics, Bellevue is one of the least affordable cities in Washington, so Bellevue’s projected job growth may not happen at all in Bellevue.

Sverland said, while Bellevue’s appeal has grown especially to families, it pales in comparison to the most desired work space: the home.

“At least 75% of my contacts want remote work,” she said. He said it’s less about Seattle versus Bellevue than it is about remote versus in-office. “Bellevue is becoming more popular among job seekers,” she said, “but that new Bellevue Company employee can’t live anywhere near Bellevue.”

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