South Sound community and business leaders gathered at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center Tuesday for South Sound Summit presented by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber with keynote speaker Mitch Lowe.

Today, the Co-Founding Executive of Netflix and CEO of MoviePass is a bit of an expert when it comes to disrupting his chosen industry with the triple successes of Netflix, Redbox, and MoviePass on his resume — think about how long it’s been since you last spotted a Blockbuster store — but he wasn’t always so confident.

Back in the days of video rental stores, Lowe and his partners were just a bunch of movie lovers who hated getting charged late fees if they were ten minutes late returning a rented flick. “Blockbuster was in (a list of) the top ten hated brands just because of that,” Lowe joked, eliciting chuckles from the audience.

He said he thought that entertainment should be fun and hassle free with a deep library that went far beyond the wire shelves of a corner video rental store. What if, he wondered, you could choose from a vast selection of movies and someone would send them to your door, and you could send them back when you were done.

“Have you ever had an idea you thought was the best idea ever and then you tell somebody and realize it’s not so great,” Lowe asked. “I sat my wife and kids down to tell them the idea and my kid said, ‘That is the stupidest idea I have ever heard.'”

Luckily for Netflix’s 137 million streaming subscribers, Lowe didn’t heed those words. In his presentation dubbed, “Disrupt or be Disrupted,” Lowe instructed audience members to do the same in their own industries.

“Any time you hear the incumbent player, the dominant player, say ‘don’t worry about that little start up,’ just think about how Hilton now feels about Airbnb, or how Blockbuster feels about Netflix,” he said.

Lowe went on to talk about the early days of Netflix and how he and his partners kept things afloat even when they thought they were about to lose it all. “For the first two or three years, every 90 days we thought we were going out of business, that we would have to start everything from scratch.”

Preceding Lowe’s speech, guests of the summit had the opportunity to stay in the main ballroom to hear from influencers from across the region or attend breakout sessions led by industry experts and leaders covering a wide range of topics.

Our South Sound Business magazine staff participated in some of these presentations and breakouts. Here’s what they took away from the experience:

The South Sound’s Secret Competitive Edge
Congressman Denny Heck weighed different strengths of the South Sound, arguing that the region’s secret competitive edge is born by an acute housing crisis nationwide. Underproduction of housing of all kinds, he said, gestures to the broken nature of the housing ecosystem as a whole.

The good news according to Heck? The South Sound has a good deal of undeveloped land that could be made available to meet housing needs.

“We need forward looking development that meets our most basic need, housing,” said Heck. “And this is a unique opportunity for the South Sound that will echo for the next century if we but seize it.” —Zoe Branch, Staff Writer

Startup253 and Tech Powerhouses of the South Sound
In one breakout session, Lee Reeves of Startup 253 — which will be part of a new technology center at Tacoma’s old City Hall when it’s renovated — led a four-person panel entitled “Startup 253 and Tech Powerhouses of the South Sound.” The panel featured Daniella Young, a city leader for Bunker Labs Seattle and CEO of Cultural Forte; Bryan Brubaker, founder and CEO of Accumula; Patrick Adrian, Co-CEO of RedQuarry; and Shadrach White, founder and CEO of CloudPWR.

The discussion spanned the gamut of tech-related subject matter, including the differences between software companies and technology companies; the importance for companies to realize the importance of technology to their particular sector, whether they realize it or not; the sales process and attention-attracting strategies; and how to find product-market fit.

To the latter, White, who has started four companies, said, “It doesn’t happen quickly. It happens over a period of several years. Everybody was focused on the consumer market, everybody was focused on the commercial market but no one was focused on the public sector.” —Jeff Burlingame, Editor in Chief

The South Sound as an Economically Vibrant Community
Dr. Ali Modarres, director of the University of Washington Tacoma’s Urban Studies program (and cover subject of the June issue of South Sound Business), offered his insights on the latest economic, housing, and employment trends. Here are some of the key highlights and data points from his presentations:

Employment — 107,000 unique job postings were recorded between October 2017 and September 2018 (that is an increase of 92,000 job postings when compared to the year prior). The median duration of a job posting was 31 days, and the majority of those job postings were placed by one company: MultiCare Health System. Of all the postings, nursing was the job category in highest demand.

Education — Last year, approximately 11,000 students graduated from our region’s community colleges and higher education institutions. “What we are really talking about is a powerhouse within this region which allows us to build the next generation of companies, and feed the current companies so they grow larger,” Dr. Modarres noted.

Commuter Workforce — In Pierce County, there are approximately 900,000 residents, 370,000 jobs, and 420,000 people in the labor force. “That tells you why I-5 is crowded,” Dr. Modarres noted. “People are going other places to work … Yes, there is a commuter population that goes north. There’s nothing wrong, by the way, with people working in other places. They bring the money back and spend it here. The problem is that it does not add a lot to the base of the economy.” He noted most people who live in the South Sound and commute to King County for work are employed as aerospace engineers, software programmers, and other tech industry professionals.

Population — Over the last five years, our region’s population has grown by 8.3 percent. Similarly, during that same period, the number of jobs also has grown by 8.3 percent. The national average for job growth was 7.4 percent, according to Dr. Modarres. —Todd Matthews, Senior Writer

Economic Opportunity for the South Sound
During a presentation by Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, the former Navy Seabee reminded the crowd that Joint Base Lewis-McChord is the largest single location employer in the state of Washington and a huge economic driver in the region.

“When I think about soldiers at JBLM, I think about the sacrifices they have made for our community and country,” Dammeier said. “I don’t always think about the huge $9.2 billion economic impact the presence of JBLM has on the South Sound.” Of that $9.2 billion, retail spending accounts for $1.7 billion while off-base rent accounts for $560 million.

Dammeier went on to discuss the importance of not only the active duty service members, but the 51 percent of JBLM soldiers and airmen who choose to leave the military and settle locally. Dammiere said these highly trained and disciplined individuals also contribute greatly to the economy as workers or as new business owners.

Dammiere had one last message before he ceded the microphone to the next presenter. “As Veterans Day comes up, I want you to remember those who served and appreciate the sacrifice they made for our country,” he said. —Joanna Kresge, Assistant Editor

A full list of S3 speakers can be found below.

Tom Absher, Absher Construction Co.
Patrick Adrian. Founder & Co-CEO of RedQuarry
Evan Brubaker, Founder & CEO of Accumula
Sarah Champion, Director of Operations at SiteCrafting
Loren Cohen, Managing Director of MC Construction
Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive
Jonathan Gagliardoni, Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer of EVERY*
Tonya Gisselberg, Attorney at Gisselberg Law Firm, Inc. PS
Denny Heck, Congressmember, US House of Representatives
Dr. David Hirschberg, Founder & CEO of Readiness Acceleration and Incubation Network (RAIN)
Derek Kilmer, Congressmember, US House of Representatives
Mitch Lowe, Co-Founding Executive of Netflix and CEO of MoviePass
Dr. Ali Modarres, Professor & Director of Urban Studies at University of Washington Tacoma
T’wina Nobles, President & CEO of Tacoma Urban League
Jake Nyman, President of the Olive Group
Bryan Reynolds, Owner of Anthem Coffee and Tea
Janine Terrano, Founder & CEO of Topia Technology
Emily Verdonk, Principal at Morris Verdonk Accounting
Shadrach White, Founder & CEO of CloudPWR
Joseph Williams, Information & Communications Technology Director, Washington State Department of Commerce