What it takes to get to $10 billion | Taking Stock

Dec 28, 2016

I reported in November that Seattle Genetics had reached a market capitalization of $10 billion for the first time. Market capitalization is measured by multiplying the value of one share of stock by the total number of shares outstanding. Market capitalization is a variable thing as share prices go up and down. This week, Seattle Genetics is worth a little over $9 billion. But the $10 billion milestone had been reached for the first time.

I was invited to visit Seattle Genetics and see the process of developing new drugs. Much of the visit was over my level of understanding, but the process is still impressive. They have machines that can separate and sort based on molecular size.

I imagine a number of other companies and higher education facilities have similar machines, but these are the first that I had seen. Spectrometer microscopes are in use. I had heard of those before, but not seen one. Reading on the internet tells me that I can buy a new or used one if I like. I wouldn't know what to do with it.

The point of all this is that we have specialized companies in Snohomish County using specialized knowledge and specialized tools. I suppose that most of us are intelligent enough that we could be taught to effectively use these specialized tools, but we certainly couldn't walk in off the street and expect to be of immediate value.

Snohomish County is a century removed from the day when most jobs didn't require specialized knowledge. An individual could learn to cut trees and plow a field without education. In King County there were coal mines, and in Snohomish County there were silver and other metal mines. Those jobs required a strong body and a measure of courage, but didn't require education.

My first job was unloading boxcars where CenturyLink Field stands now. That job fell into the category of "show up and be willing to sweat." Then I went to Boeing and learned how to become a mockup mechanic, and then a model maker on the job. On the job training doesn't seem to happen much anymore. Businesses expect the employees to come trained.

The hard part for educators is to train students for the kinds of jobs that businesses have. In the last few decades the types of jobs requiring training have changed more than once. It looks like this will be a process that isn't going to stop or even slow.

That means that current and future generations will need to expect to go back to school for retraining some time in their life. The first degree will be useful, but will require supplemental skills over time.

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