Microsoft, Amazon Propel Washington to Most Innovative State
The most innovative state in the U.S. isn't California, home of Google Inc. (GOOG) and Stanford University, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It's Washington, where Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Amazon.com Inc. are based.
California came in second and Massachusetts third in the ranking, which looked at criteria such as the percentage of professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and the number of patents and public technology companies in each state.
Washington, known for rainy Seattle, abundant greenery and fleece-clad citizens, had the highest total score, not by topping any of the categories -- California is highest in patent activity and five states have more skilled workers -- but by placing near the top. That's due to the large technology workforce, high productivity rates and plethora of public companies in aerospace, biotechnology and computer technology.
Technology enterprises make up 21 percent of Washington's public companies, according to the ranking, while they comprise 29 percent in California and Massachusetts.
The state's strong engineering roots go back to Boeing Co. (BA), the airplane maker that was based in Seattle until 2001 and still has extensive manufacturing operations in the Puget Sound area. The company attracted not just employees but also suppliers to the area, said Ed Lazowska, who holds the Bill and Melinda Gates chair in computer science and engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Microsoft's 1979 move to the suburbs of Seattle from Albuquerque, New Mexico, attracted computer engineers throughout the 1980s and 1990s, as did other area companies such as Aldus Corp., the maker of publishing-software PageMaker. Nintendo Co. (7974) chose Redmond, Washington, as its U.S. headquarters, pulling in game developers, Lazowska said.
Former employees of these companies have gone on to found local startups in and around Seattle. The availability of top engineers has attracted technology firms such as Google, Facebook Inc. (FB) and Salesforce.com Inc. (CRM), which have set up large offices in the area.
Washington state "arguably owns the cloud," said Lazowska, referring to computing services delivered via the Web that are offered by companies such as Amazon and Microsoft. The area also boasts a strong presence in segments such as data analytics and storage.