Through most of its history, the Boeing Company has been one of the biggest providers of jobs and wealth in western Washington State. But in the 1990s, the company found itself a target of local activists and politicians who saw urban sprawl and "growth politics" ruining the region's quality of life.
T. M. Sell grew up in a Boeing family, near Boeing's Renton plant, and later covered the company as a reporter for the Valley Daily News and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He is a first-hand observer of the drama he unfolds--one personally interested in the future of his community, well informed about the details of its history, acquainted with many of the principal players, and conversant with the theoretical and historical literature that bears on the multifaceted questions he seeks to answer.
After a lively sketch of the Boeing Company's history into the last decade of the 20th century, Sell looks at what happened when Boeing tried to expand its facilities in Renton and Everett. It was then that the "paradox of growth" first manifested itself, the point at which the benefits of economic expansion appeared to be outweighed by its costs.
Sell examines political power management in Washington State, paying particular attention to Boeing's successful efforts to be a positive influence in the state, to the strategies it used to influence growth-management legislation in Olympia, and to its negotiations with the communities most affected by its efforts to grow. In each case, Sell gives not just an overview of positions and strategies but also sharply drawn portraits of the lobbyists, analysts, and politicians involved, many of whom explain their views in direct conversation.
The balanced and comprehensive approach Sell brings to bear on the story is also his recommendation for dealing with inevitable future growth-related contentions. Fostering the continuing health of our economic and political environment, he concludes, will require just such a broad, evenhanded, and sensible approach to the politics of compromise.