May 23, 2024 - News

Seattle makes list of "world-class" cities

A photo of the Seattle skyline shot from the north including Mount Rainier in the background.

Photo: Donald Miralle/for Rock'n'Roll Marathon via Getty Images

Seattle is breaking into the big leagues, with new recognition as one of the top cities in the world.

Why it matters: Despite A+ natural beauty, the city has been hampered by its traffic, lagging transit options, slow downtown recovery and a well-intentioned participatory democracy called the "Seattle process" that makes it hard to get things done fast.

Driving the news: But a new ranking of cities from Oxford Economics that gives Seattle the sixth-highest Global Cities Index score — behind only New York, London, San Jose, Tokyo and Paris — shines a spotlight on the Emerald City's strengths.

What they did: In Oxford Economics' inaugural report, researchers looked at the 1,000 largest cities, analyzing them across five categories: human capital, quality of life, environment, governance and economics.

  • Seattle's highest ranking was fourth for economic indicators like employment growth, economic stability and economic diversity.

Zoom in: The city's tech sector, with Microsoft and Amazon at the center, rivals that of "any other city in the world," the report's authors wrote.

  • The report also names Boeing, Starbucks, Costco and Nordstrom, as well as a highly educated workforce, as significant contributors to the stability and diversity of the region's economy.
  • The "large number of workers employed in the tech, aerospace, and corporate sectors means its residents have a very high income per person," the report's authors wrote.

Yes, but: Those high salaries can be a double-edged sword, as they've likely contributed to the city's high income inequality and the city continues to face a critical housing shortage amid limited supply and rising costs, per the report.

  • The city's vulnerability to coastal flooding and storms took points from its otherwise strong environmental ranking.
  • It also lost ground in the governance category, along with other U.S. cities, for potential political instability due to the 2024 presidential election.

State of play: Seattle is routinely touted as one of the best cities in the U.S., but business leaders and city officials say they're glad to see it recognized on a global level.

  • In 2023, the city saw a record number of cruise ship passengers, post-pandemic tourism highs and the highest two-day total number of visitors since early 2018, according to the Downtown Seattle Association.

What they're saying: "Seattle's star will continue to rise," Downtown Seattle Association President and CEO Jon Scholes told Axios.

What we're watching: Next year, the city's showpiece Waterfront Park will open and in 2026, Seattle will host the FIFA World Cup, the most widely viewed and followed single sporting event on Earth and the biggest event in the city's history since the World's Fair in 1962.

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