The Washington Software Alliance is partying in Tacoma this week, and for good reason. Since the city spent $100 million on a fiber optic network that connects every city block and alley with the equivalent of a T3 line, 100 start-up technology companies having set up shop in the city that lies 30 miles south of Seattle and Bellevue.

They’re coming not only for some of the best communications infrastructure around, but also for low lease rates, lower housing costs and free parking – three things long since forgotten by their well-known neighbors to the north.

Add to that a host of publicly funded projects including a new convention center, a new art museum and a major waterfront cleanup effort, and its clear why Tacoma’s director of economic development, Juli Wilkerson, says “Tacoma’s revival is for real.” To keep it going, Wilkerson plans to begin aggressively promoting Tacoma as “America’s No. 1 Wired City” this fall in business publications and newspapers.

Known more for its distinctive industrial aroma than its communications network until now, companies like, AtomicTangerine, Big Garden Ventures and are now calling it home. The new arrivals have prompted some locals to add a “e-” when speaking of the city’s major thoroughfare, Commerce Street. Indeed, AtomicTangerine, a Silicon Valley venture capital consulting firm and Internet incubator, says while its good to go in Tacoma, it’ still waiting for high-speed Internet access in its more expensive San Francisco office. For similar reasons,, a venture- backed start-up founded in Olympia last year, moved its headquarters to South Pine Street in July.

Acknowledging Tacoma’s successful effort, the Washington Software Alliance launched its new South Sound chapter this week with a party at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium that included U.S. Sens. Slade Gorton and Patty Murray and other government leaders. And on Aug. 24, the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce will celebrate its first annual “E-Business Day,” during which citizens will be able to visit newly renovated buildings, tour dot-com businesses and attend a gala at the Tacoma Club.

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