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Seattle Area’s Life-Science Sector is on the Upswing, and It is Scrambling to Fill Jobs

By February 5, 2019No Comments

In a quiet Bothell business park far from booming South Lake Union, players in the Northwest’s “other” tech sector are coping with growing pains of their own.

At Fujifilm SonoSite, a manufacturer of portable ultrasound devices, demand is growing so rapidly that it recently decided to add a 10-person weekend shift to its assembly line. Yet that modest objective proved surprisingly challenging — in large part because SonoSite isn’t the only one looking to expand, as underscored by a new report from state trade group Life Science Washington.

In Bothell alone, there are now 61 life-science companies — Seattle Genetics is right next door — with another 106 in Woodinville, Kirkland and Redmond, and many of them are also trying to quickly scale up.

Even after SonoSite raised starting wages by as much as 15 percent, stepped up referral bonuses, and sent executives to recruit on local community colleges, so many of the company’s new hires were being poached by other employers that it took nearly a year of heavy overtime and backlogged orders before the company “had a stable workforce,” said Tom Davidson, director of manufacturing.