The 50 largest employers in Snohomish County account for nearly 100,000 jobs, or about 34 percent of the county’s total employment. The county’s 20,500 businesses range from small family farms specializing in organic foods to the world’s largest advanced manufacturing facility producing state-of-the-art aerospace equipment. The manufacturing base, coupled with proximity to a major urban center, provides the foundation for a diverse local economy.
Northern Snohomish County is the manufacturing center of Washington state. Twenty-five percent of the workforce is associated with manufacturing, more than twice the state average. The assembly of commercial aircraft is significant in the local economy, including The Boeing Company and the associated supply chain. Southern Snohomish County, with its nearness to Seattle, has a concentration of knowledgeable workers and life sciences companies. T-Mobile has an engineering technology center with a staff of 600, and Google has a facility in Bothell (18 miles south of Everett) employing roughly 800 workers. On the life sciences side, the southern portion of the county has a cluster of medical device companies with a specific focus on ultrasound diagnostics. Philips Healthcare and Sonosite have a combined workforce of 3,000. On the pharmaceutical side and smaller in scale, CMC Biologics has 200 scientists researching and producing pharmaceuticals on a contract basis.
The median age in Snohomish County is about 37 years old, meaning the workforce skews younger. Median household income in the county is $70,528, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Although the state has no income tax, it relies heavily on its sales tax of 6.5 percent, one of the nation’s highest rates, and some cities and local governments in the county add additional local sales taxes.
Access by Air, Land and Sea
Few places are as strongly positioned for robust business growth and innovation as Snohomish County, with its relatively easy access from waterways, major interstates and a sprawling commercial airport.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac), about 40 miles south of Everett, is the primary airport serving the region with commercial, passenger and cargo services worldwide. Snohomish County Airport Paine Field is a full-service general aviation airport next to Boeing’s Everett plant; Paine Field can accommodate the largest aircraft.
Interstate 5 runs from the Canadian border to Mexico. It traverses Snohomish County, providing direct trucking links throughout the West Coast. Seattle is the western terminus for I-90, the major east/west freeway for the northern U.S. that runs all the way east to Boston.
The Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad owns the freight rail network in Snohomish County; Union Pacific brings freight as far as the Seattle yard; and Sound Transit’s commuter rail service connects Everett in the north through Seattle south to the city of Tacoma.
The region has multiple deep-water port facilities with service to destinations worldwide. The Port of Everett, in the center of Snohomish County, has container, break-bulk and barge facilities for cargo movement. The port is also the largest recreational marina on the West Coast. The ports of Seattle and Tacoma (25 and 55 miles south, respectively) have numerous scheduled liner services. The Washington State Ferries system is an extension of the state highway system and is the largest of its kind in the world. Daily, it transports thousands of workers in and out of Snohomish County from residential communities across the water.
Snohomish County has been and continues to be home to a number of Native American tribes; the county’s early economic history is characterized by an abundance of natural resources in a diverse ecological region.
European settlement of Puget Sound, including what is now Snohomish County, followed Capt. George Vancouver’s claim of much of western Washington for Great Britain in 1792. Snohomish County was carved out of Island County in 1861, and the late 19th century saw several settlements established in western Snohomish County. When the Great Northern Railway reached the infant city of Everett in 1893, it brought an economic boom with it; Snohomish County’s early industrial economy continued to be based on abundant natural resources — primarily timber and agriculture — and the railroad carried those resources to new, far-flung markets.
After World War II, Snohomish County’s economic growth was fueled largely by thousands of commuters who worked in Seattle but wanted to live in the suburban bedroom communities in the county’s picturesque southwest portions.
The home-grown multinational corporation, Boeing, traces its roots to Seattle and continues to play a prominent role in Snohomish County’s economy. In the late 1960s, Boeing established its 747 manufacturing plant at Paine Field near Everett. The later development of other high-technology industries in Snohomish County brought more population increases and a shift from an economy based on logging and agriculture to one rooted in manufacturing and an expanding service sector.
Naval Station Everett
Puget Sound is the U.S. Navy’s third-largest fleet concentration area. The Department of the Navy spends about $2.8 billion annually in the region, which is home to approximately 31,000 active-duty members, 16,000 civilian employees, 2,400 drilling reservists, 11,000 contractors, 42,000 family members and 55,000 Navy retirees. Naval Station Everett is one of the largest employers in Snohomish County and is estimated to have an annual economic impact of $360 million, according to the most recent economic impact statement.