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Volcanic Hazards of the Seattle Region: Implications for Strategic Business

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The city of Seattle houses corporate headquarters of large corporations that play a strategic role in numerous industries. Corporations such as Boeing, Costco, Microsoft, Starbucks and Weyerhaeuser contribute much to the United States economy. Mt. Rainier, an active volcano in the state of Washington poses a legitimate threat to the not only the city and people of Seattle, but also furthermore to the industries established there. If anything were to happen to the city of Seattle that were to result in these corporations not being able to operate, the United States would be impacted greatly. Costco specifically, if impacted by a natural disaster, would result in not only an effect on the United States, but on several other nations economies.

Costco Wholesale Corporation is the world’s largest retailer behind Walmart and is also known to be the world’s largest retailer of beef, organic foods, wine and rotisserie chicken. Costco also has one of the largest corporation revenues in the United States, as they are ranked #14 in the country on the Forbes 500 rankings. In addition to its headquarters located in Issaquah, Washington, Costco Wholesale Corporation currently operates 776 Costco warehouses worldwide. They operate largely in the United States with 539 locations, but also in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Spain, Iceland, France, China and New Zealand. Costco carries a wide variety of products including but not limited to food, wine, liquor, beer, bulk food, art, books, caskets, clothing, electronics, toiletries, cleaning products, furniture, appliances, hot tubs, perishable items, solar panels and auto parts. Their warehouses offer a variety of additional services that include gas stations, pharmacies, photo centers, optometrists, and tire garages. Costco Wholesale Corporation also operates as their label, Kirkland Signature, which accounts for many of their generic products sold in warehouse locations. Unlike Walmart or other competitors, Costco is a members-only retailer that offers additional programs and services to its members. Concierge services, auto programs, business services and food services are offered exclusively to its members. The large amount of goods and services offered to Costco members directly correlates to its success, with a revenue of $141.576 billion in 2018 and reported earnings of $3.134 billion. Costco Wholesale Corporation also is very important for the economy of not only the United States but other nations as it has 245,000 employees as of 2018. Costco Wholesale Corporate Headquarters Located in Issaquah, Washington, Costco’s headquarters is approximately 66 miles from Washington’s Mt. Rainier.

According to the National Park Service, Mt. Rainier is still an active volcano although it has not experienced an eruption cycle in the past 1,000 years. National Geographic argues that Mt. Rainier is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the type of eruption it would give off, its slope, and its proximity to civilization. The slope on Mt. Rainier is perfect for lahar formation, fast and violent slurries of lava that will rush down the mountain during an eruption, scientists say. In surrounding areas of Mt. Rainier, 80,000 people are living in areas that future eruptions and lahars are bound to reach, most of whom are in suburbs of the Seattle-Tacoma metropolis. The next eruption of Rainier is inevitable, but also unpredictable, which makes the potential threat and damage much worse. Historically eruptions of Mt. Rainier have alternated between “quiet lava-producing eruptions” and “explosive debris-producing eruptions”, both of which would prove to wreak havoc on the Seattle area. An eruption of Mt. Rainier could result in multiple things including the destruction of roads, bridges, buildings and homes, as well as blackouts in the form of power outages, cell phone tower destruction and loss of communication. The eruption would also release much debris that would affect not only the areas at risk of damage by lahars, but the entire area. Ultimately if an unexpected eruption were to occur, the city of Seattle and its surroundings would see tragedy, death and furthermore economic damage that would affect the world.

Lahar Flow Map Costco Wholesale Corporation faces large potential risks being located as close to Mt. Rainier as they are. With a location 66 miles from the volcano, Costco’s headquarters are bound to be affected greatly by an explosion. One potential risk that the Costco Wholesale corporation faces is the destruction of its corporate headquarters; if lava flow from Mr. Rainier has the potential to destroy roads, bridges and other infrastructure, it most definitely has the potential to destroy its large corporate headquarters. This type of destruction could cause issues such as destruction of data, destruction of goods, misplacement of employees, loss of important information or work not backed up to a database. In addition, because most of the company’s executives are based out of their headquarters, Costco Wholesale Corporation may see a halt or very at large delay to their day-to-day corporate functions. 41 of Costco’s executive officers are based out of this corporate headquarters which poses another potential risk in losing key members to the operation of the Costco Wholesale Corporation.

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Although not all, many most likely reside in the Seattle-Tacoma Metropolis, and would ultimately be affected by this potential disaster. One of the potential outcomes of an eruption of Mount Rainier is death, especially if the eruption is violent and lahar formation happens more quickly than residents can evacuate. This would not only affect executive members but many other Costco employees living in the Seattle area who report to the corporation’s headquarters.

The effect that an eruption would have merely on Costco’s home office would ultimately affect the entire corporation. The threat of a blackout that would result in little to no communication with the outside world and to other members of management, their 776 warehouse locations and to investors. Without communication to their warehouses, Costco could see chaos erupt in their retail locations. Managers and employees may ultimately see that in the absence of a corporate headquarters and executive officers, goods and products will start to run out quickly as there will eventually be no new product arriving to warehouses. This may even cause managers and employees to believe that they do not have to still operate during the time of crises, which could result in another threat- looters. Often in time of crisis, society sees that there is an increase in theft of property and goods from stores and residences; with a crisis like so, Costco could see looters attempting theft at closed retail locations as well as from a destroyed corporate headquarters and unattended shipping and storage yards at Seattle’s port.

Finally, a crisis such as the eruption of Mt. Rainier would have an effect on the economy because without corporate operations taking place, shipments not going to stores, and mass chaos overall, Costco’s warehouses would not be able to function on their own for long.

In the best interest of the Costco Wholesale Corporation, it would be most beneficial for the company to either relocate its headquarters to a location that would not be affected by the potential eruption of Mt. Rainier or to establish a crisis plan that would eliminate many of the potential risks associated with said crisis. The future eruption of Mt. Rainier is bound to happen and would have an effect not only on the Seattle home office location, but on the economy and on its locations worldwide.

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Volcanic Hazards of the Seattle Region: Implications for Strategic Business. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from
“Volcanic Hazards of the Seattle Region: Implications for Strategic Business.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
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