Located on the eastern shore of Lake Washington, Kirkland has a small-town vibe and big-city amenities. This sleepy bedroom community-turned-trendy urban village boasts stunning water views, 25 miles of publicly accessible coastline (some offering twinkling glimpses of Seattle’s distant skyline), a slew of creative businesses and homes located in a walkable downtown, plus a resilient community of over 93,000 people.
“Kirkland is a growing, inclusive and welcoming economy that has come together with heart and energy to help those in need during and throughout the pandemic,” said Jim Lopez, the city’s deputy director of external affairs. of Kirkland.
While the city is a beloved destination for many locals, the world recently learned its name when it was identified as the first city in the United States to report a case of COVID, in March 2020.
“Expert leadership and a comprehensive response quickly made Kirkland the epicenter of resilience, modeling several relief and recovery programs for businesses and residents that other communities referenced,” Lopez explained. “The City leveraged federal stimulus funds and quickly partnered with companies like Google and our Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce to provide several rounds of relief funding for businesses and residents.”
The city has also launched the site shoplocalkirkland.com, a “digital main street” to connect businesses to customers. Additionally, it continues to allow innovations and construction in sidewalks and streets to compensate for business capacity limits and ongoing social distancing guidelines.
“These actions exemplify Kirkland’s approach to creating a community where all community members and businesses belong,” Lopez said. Small businesses are the backbone of our country’s economy; in Kirkland, 98% of businesses are classified as small businesses, which means that these entities have less than 50 employees.
The City of Kirkland is committed to helping its business community survive and thrive through and beyond the disruption of COVID-19, while recognizing that the pandemic is disproportionately impacting people in the community already facing health and economic disparities. In its outreach, criteria and policies, the City aims to reach and offer assistance to the most vulnerable business populations, including BIPOC communities, according to its website.
The town of Kirkland was named after Peter Kirk, a British-born steel magnate whose vision was tested by the stock market crash of 1893. (He had dreamed of developing a “Pittsburgh of West” on the eastern edge of Lake Washington – a thriving new town whose economy would be rooted in steel production.)
Yet despite the setbacks, the town carried on and was incorporated in 1905, finding early success as a hub of woolen spinning and shipbuilding. Both of these industries flourished in the shipyards that now make up an area called Carillon Point – a marina that is also home to a collection of shops, cafes and waterfront accommodations found at the Woodmark Hotel & Still Spa. On warmer days, the hotel’s outdoor activity partner, Waterfront Adventures, offers boat, stand-up paddleboard, and kayak rentals, while the surrounding patios teem with diners.
Today, Kirkland’s top three employers are EvergreenHealth, Google, and the Lake Washington School District. In particular, the tech sector has excelled here over the years, with businesses and employees drawn to the city’s business climate and lifestyle.
“Kirkland has connected public transportation, excellent schools, world-class arts organizations, public waterfront beaches and parks, robust shopping and dining, and easy access to outdoor adventures” , Lopez said.
In addition to Google, tech companies with a foothold in Kirkland include Tableau Software, ServiceNow, Pivotal Commware, Zemax, INRIX, Nortal, GoDaddy and Wyze. Recently, fintech platform Robinhood also got involved in Kirkland’s new log building, across from Carillion Point.
Lopez and his team point to location-based assets that help businesses here thrive, such as a welcoming and inclusive economy, responsive and proactive government, consistent leadership, top-tier healthcare facilities and urban redevelopments, including Kirkland Urban and the Village at Lac des Totems.
Residents and business people alike enjoy downtime at Kirkland’s public beaches and its multitude of globally-influenced and price-range restaurants. They also appreciate the proximity to downtown Seattle, the Cascades and the Woodinville wine region, to name a few regional attractions.
Looking ahead, City staff seem most excited about the growing diversity of the destination’s population — and all the vibrancy that brings to each area. Those who call this location appreciate the expanding dining options and cultural offerings, urban core redevelopments, commitment to green transportation and walking, and a thriving arts and culture scene.