How a once sleepy town became a vibrant, growing city: HR2 Research/Analytics

The norm among research firms, including HR², is that few know their contributions to the local business community. The Issaquah-Sammamish Reporter asked me the
question: “What has HR² done in Issaquah?” The answer is, “a whole lot!” My entire business is built on the propensity to ask the question of not just why? But why not?

HR² has been involved in several key business decisions that became directly involved in the land use policy of the once Pickering Farm. The hallmark of this major master plan became the headquarters of Costco Wholesale. Initially, many of the vendors
of Costco needed help even to know where “Issaquah” was and how to pronounce the
city’s name.

The prior headquarters of Costco was located in Kirkland, East of the 405. Costco was undergoing major growth even in its early years and the location restricted
their ability to expand, but unbeknownst, the decision to move to Pickering Place was based on HR²’s research and just three community leaders: Jeff Brotman, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board of Costco, Suzanne Suther, Executive Director of the Issaquah Chamber, and Jim Hebert, whose research was a game-changer in real estate and land use. There were no commercial brokers, no attorneys, and no architects, just three ordinary local people who spent most of the day walking
the Kirkland warehouse location, followed by an on-site review of Pickering Farm. This inspired the vision of Costco and the City of Issaquah.

Within a mere few weeks Costco made the decision to relocate to Issaquah and now is a major employer just at the headquarters office alone with nearly 3,000 of the smartest intellects in retail. Costco currently employs over 220,000 employees throughout the nation and had sales of approximately $117 million last year. The Issaquah Highlands was developed once again based on thousands of data points, hundreds of statistical algorithms, and to answer many complex questions about the number of housing units, the demand for retail, a medical center, open space, and parks.

The outcome was a major source of new housing in Issaquah and the Eastside region. This was among other major master plans in Issaquah, such as Talus, which involved views of Lake Sammamish, the city, and the mountains. Admittedly, one of HR²’s error of omissions was not including the analysis for preservation of views which became a major point of contention between the city and the Homeowners Association.

The conflict was between the emerging importance of real estate rights of property owners and the importance of sustaining the environment. The good that came of this conflict however, is that future developments are much more responsive to the environment. Rowley Properties became a leader from the Issaquah private sector. The Hilton Hotel, Chevrolet and Ford dealerships, as well as the retail along Gilman Blvd reflects the transition of the balance of land use, the environment, and the private commercial sector. The city of Issaquah has grown from a population of 9,025 in 1995 to 32,130 today through annexations of adjacent unincorporated King County land. It has also grown from migration from other communities, its residents looking for the well-acclaimed quality of life to live, work and play in Issaquah. Once again, long term strategic planning relied upon the statistical sciences and community input, of which HR² was directly involved in the City’s growth.

Jim Hebert
Senior Research
Director Ph.D. Candidate
HR2 Research and Analytics
jhebert@hr2researchandanalytics. com


Follow Jim on social media for insights on community and business developments: