Calling Tacoma a 'tech town' is far-fetched. The city could make some inroads, though

Credit: Bill Virgin, Tacoma News Tribune Contributing Writer

“Tacoma’s a tech town,” proclaims the subject line of an emailed newsletter from the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, touting the community’s latest wins and accomplishments.

The immediate reaction among the jaded and cynical — like the proprietor of this column — might be found somewhere between eye-rolling and resignation for another round of disappointment. Ever since someone thought up the concept of technology as a distinct industry, like steel or cars or ag, and saw how certain parts of the country, like Silicon Valley or Seattle, were getting rich off it, every American community has pined for and lusted after a piece of that action.

More often than not, those efforts came to naught. It takes a precise and still poorly understood combination of luck, history, foundation companies and academic institutions to create tech hubs, and most communities lacked those ingredients or had them in insufficient proportions. Tech hubs are also rarely planned; they seem to spontaneously combust.

Thus the notion of Tacoma being a recognized tech hub prompts responses of “here we go again” and expectations that this won’t produce anything more than being “America’s No. 1 Wired City” did.