Based in Washington, Ross is a general manager of a food safety company. His musings explore life, work and every moment in between.

Seattle in 1989

The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) Pest World Conference is in Seattle this week. It has been 27 years since the national get together for the Pest Control industry was in Seattle and in 1989 it  was a much different town. Population was just over half a million and it had been slowly declining for the past two decades. Boeing was the largest employer of the region and all 57,000 machinists were on strike, crippling the company and the local economy. Crime was high, 134 occurrences per 1000 people and the trend was to move as far away from the city as possible. Sprague too was different in 1989. The branches included Tacoma, Seattle, Spokane, Bremerton and a new office in Yakima. Our goals were to look outside of Washington, at Portland and Boise but that was a dream far off in the future.

Yet despite all of this turmoil in Seattle and the limited size of Sprague, there were reasons to be optimistic. The population started to increase and is up 40% since 1989. The crime rate has dropped for 27 consecutive years to below 50 per 1000 people. Boeing and the union settled the strike amicably and the job market in Seattle began diversifying from manufacturing to software startups like Microsoft adding 2,793 new jobs (at this point). The music scene was exploding (including Nirvana and Sir Mix A-Lot who released their first albums), and the Mariners welcomed Ken Griffey Jr. who captured the hearts of many including my seven-year-old imagination. Globally, optimism was running high as well. The Berlin wall came tumbling down, Tim Berners-Lee invented the internet in Switzerland and the first GPS satellite was launched into space.

That same optimism was infectious at Sprague having added offices in Portland, Boise, Eugene, Salt Lake City, Denver and Everett. During that time we have grown not twice as large, but fifteen times bigger as we have strived to get better at our core commercial work. Many of the same people who were propelling that growth mindset are still here guiding the organization. They have overseen the company’s development and are enshrined on the wall of twenty years of experience in our home office. Benchmarking where we were in 1989 and seeing how far Sprague, Seattle and the world have come in this time makes me optimistic about the future. The next twenty seven years will bring us to 2043. Just think what a different world that will be.

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