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East Seattle, like the rest of Seattle, has had one of the strongest, most diversified economies in the nation for decades. East Seattle or Eastside, as it’s known to locals, has one of the largest presences of tech companies outside Silicon Valley. Companies with major presences or headquarters in King County include Microsoft, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Nintendo of America, Expedia and many more. The city of Seattle, as a whole, is home to many Fortune 500 companies, among them Boeing, Amazon, Nordstrom, Starbucks and Costco.

The city also has a major port, the Port of Seattle, which runs the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, one of the busiest in North America. The city has long been associated with aviation. Before moving its headquarters to Chicago, the Boeing Company called Seattle home for decades. It still maintains one of its main manufacturing facilities, Boeing Field, across Lake Washington from Eastside. It also maintains one of its largest jet final-assembly plants in Everett, Washington, just a few miles to the north. Collectively, these facilities provide the area with tens of thousands of jobs, making Boeing the area’s largest employer. The Eastside region is also home to many biotech companies such as Merck, Amgen and Icos.

All this adds up to an extremely vibrant economy with a highly diversified base. Other markers are equally sound. The state of Washington has an unemployment rate of 5.1 percent, ranking it somewhere in the middle of all states. But Eastside’s unemployment rate is quite low, just 3.3 percent. In addition, the area’s median home price is a very high $604,000, making Eastside one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets. That’s accompanied by an average cost of a one room apartment of a whopping $2,400 per month. Despite this, the city doesn’t have outrageously high bankruptcy rates. Seattle, as a whole, typically ranks somewhere near the middle of all major cities when measured by bankruptcies per capita.

The overall strong economic picture for the area is partially driven by a housing market that wasn’t battered as strongly as the rest of the nation by the housing crisis of 2007, with the average home losing only about 25 percent of its value by the 2012 market nadir. But the Seattle-area housing market has exploded to surpass its pre-2007 highs by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Today, the median home price in the city is nearly $650,000. This has provided a tremendous boost to upper-middle class property owners, growing their aggregate wealth tremendously.

Even so, for those at the bottom of Eastside’s economic pyramid, times can still be extremely tough. The outrageously high costs of living have driven many who live paycheck to paycheck into financial distress. For many Eastside residents facing mounting, unmanageable debt, declaring Chapter 7 appears to be the only way out.

But there are other strategies that can create an escape from debt just as quickly and without the horrible costs of a bankruptcy. For many, debt settlement may be a viable and much less costly option.

How debt settlement can go to work for Eastside residents

Debt settlement can achieve many of the same goals as bankruptcy but without such horrible costs as not being able to get a mortgage or auto loan for the better part of a decade. The best debt settlement companies can often negotiate principal reductions on behalf of their clients of 50 percent or more, with 75 percent not being unheard of. They can also help their clients modify any underlying spending habits or out-of-control expenses that may have cause the debt accumulation.

Many people with consumer debt refuse to hire debt settlement companies, questioning why they should pay a fee to the company, usually a small percentage of the debt settlement amount but sometimes still a large number in absolute terms, when they can theoretically do the same thing themselves, for free. This is a mistake.

A good debt settlement company often represents hundreds or even thousands of clients with the nation’s largest creditors. These settlement firms have long-standing relationships with decision makers inside those companies who can decide the fate of millions of dollars of debt in one phone call. A consumer, acting on his own behalf, would be lucky to get one of these high-level executives on the phone at all. Most of the time, low-level employees are not authorized to forgive debts over a few hundred dollars. Anything above about $5000 will usually be dealt with at the absolute top level of the executive hierarchy. An individual consumer is unlikely to get one of those people’s attention.

But even if he does, he still faces major hurdles that a debt settlement company won’t have. In many cases, an executive account manager may look at the debt amounts and indicators then decide to reject the consumer’s settlement offer anyway. He may calculate that the likelihood of the consumer declaring bankruptcy is low or that the company stands a good chance of winning a lawsuit against him.

Contrast this with the debt settlement company. An offer could be made to remove $10,000,000 of non-performing loans from the creditor’s books in a take-it-or-leave it deal. The executive knows that he could collect on some of those debts but on most, will only see a fraction of the nominal amount. For major creditors, such deals can prove nearly impossible to turn down.