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Seattle, an Export Center for Aircraft, Software, Coffee


Seattle, in the northwestern U.S. state of Washington, has become an important technology and commercial center, with industries that include aircraft, computer software and gourmet coffee. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Seattle, the Pacific port is profiting from growing international trade ties.

In the years since World War II, Seattle has been transformed from a sleepy fishing and timber town to a cutting edge high-tech center.

The city and its suburbs, home to 3.5 million people, is headquarters for the software titan Microsoft, more than 130 biotechnology firms, and the aerospace giant Boeing.

Nearly 60,000 people work for Boeing around Seattle. Commuter planes and jumbo jets take shape here, including the new long-range Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The aircraft has suffered a six-month production delay, but is scheduled for delivery to its first customer, Japan's All Nippon Airways, in late 2008.

Boeing's Mike Callaghan, a production manager for the 777, says the company wants to provide a versatile fleet.

"The idea is to offer our customers a range of airplanes that are fuel-efficient and are able to use them from different points, say from Seattle to Sydney, Australia, or Seattle to Los Angeles, or Los Angeles to Singapore, from point A to point B," he said.

Seattle's biggest exports are aircraft and aerospace parts. A major West Coast port, the city trades with China and other Asian countries, and one-third of local jobs are export-related.

Rob Walgren, a spokesman for the Port of Seattle says other Pacific ports, such as Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach, compete for the same cargo.

"Seattle is what is known as discretionary port," he said. "We can bring any kind of cargo in and any kind of cargo can go out of here because we do not have a very dense population base."

He says most incoming cargo goes to other parts of the country by highway or rail line.

Seattle is home to home to Starbucks and smaller competitors that meet the growing demand for gourmet coffee.

Tully's, founded in 1992, runs 90 U.S. stores. A Japanese partner operates more than 300 stores under the name Tully's Coffee Japan. Master roaster Brian Speckman watches the steaming brown coffee beans pour out of the rotating roaster.

He says the coffee is prepared in a traditional way, without computers.

"Why that is so important, having highly trained artisans monitoring every aspect of the roast, is that the roast evolves hour by hour, batch by batch," Speckman said.

Washington State also grows fruit for export, and its wines, produced in the Columbia Valley east of Seattle, are starting to gain an international following, says vintner Mike Mrachek of St. Laurent Wines.

"Washington has a world reputation for their apples and their cherries as well, and it is the same in the wine industry," he said. "We raise quality grapes."

Seattle made news in 1999 when anti-globalization activists closed down the city during a meeting of the World Trade Organization. But Seattle is becoming increasingly globalized.

Like other growing cities, it has its problems, from rising housing costs to congestion.

Crowded highways, urban sprawl and a strained infrastructure are the price Seattle is paying for its expansion. Yet residents say this scenic seaside city, with its growing economy, is one of the best places to live in America.

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