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Tuesday, June 22, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Inside Technology

High-Tech Learns From Fremont Funk

Seattle Times Technology Reporter

Set your watch back 5 minutes. Grab a cup of herbal tea. We're about to enter Fremont.

Here in the self-anointed center of the universe, where the Waiting for the Interurban sculptures wear more clothing than the nude cyclists who grace the annual Solstice Parade, high-tech is moving in.

Right at the Fremont Bridge, Adobe Systems, System 1 Software and Getty Images all call the Quadrant Lake Union complex home. Down the street you have Digital Intelligence.

And then there's Chase Bobko, which epitomizes how high-tech can fit in with Fremont funk.

The Chase Bobko office has a different feel from many high-tech companies where employees are high on Josta drinks and short on attention span. The atmosphere is more laid back and the employees fairly mellow as they concentrate on getting their work done.

There's not much noise, except for the occasional blaring from the Fremont Bridge horn or the sporadic chatter from the six dogs and pet cockatoo that employees sometimes bring with them.

The company, headed by President Patricia Chase, specializes in turning large amounts of corporate information into an easy-to-use system accessible over the Web or an internal network. If company culture starts from the top, Chase can be responsible for much of that Fremont feel.

An Evergreen State College grad, Chase decorates her office with butterflies made of painted, recycled nylons. She allows staffers to take off occasional afternoons for family reasons. She also tracks if they are regularly working more than 40 hours a week. If they are, she has a novel way to deal with it - she adds another employee. And employees, who participate in a profit-sharing plan, are free to review the company's books.

During monthly staff meetings, everyone has to share something personal. It's one way she encourages people to incorporate a sense of balance and to remember that work is only one part of your life.

"If you have to work, it might as well be a good place to work," she said. "It's not all about killing yourselves."

How we live: Seattle can claim the crown in yet another beauty contest measuring the quality of life, but judges were skeptical about how gracefully Seattle will age.

A poll of residents in six high-tech cities found that people in Seattle were most satisfied with their quality of life. About 63 percent of the 400 Seattle residents surveyed said the quality of life was either very good or excellent - better opinions than residents in any of the other five cities polled, Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Boston; Raleigh, N.C., and San Jose.

But Seattle respondents were the second-most pessimistic on how livable the city will be five years from now. About 37 percent said they thought the city would be a somewhat worse or much worse place to live. Only Austin's residents had a grimmer view.

The complaints? Traffic (surprise). About 89 percent said Seattle does a poor or fair job of managing it. Urban sprawl, the cost of living and tax rates were other complaints.

Intelliquest, the Austin-based company that conducted the survey, anticipates those aspects may factor into companies' ease in recruiting high-tech workers to their area. In that respect, Boston and Raleigh had high marks in both their current quality of life and in optimism. San Jose faired poorly in those areas.

And yes, weather was a factor. On a scale of 1 to 5, the respondents gave Seattle a 3. Considering the survey was taken during the moody spring, maybe Seattleites are more optimistic than they realize. Inside Technology appears Tuesdays in the Business section of The Seattle Times. You can contact Helen Jung by phone, 206-464-2742; fax, 206-382-8879; or e-mail, hjung@seattletimes.com.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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