Donate to the Q13 FOX Cares and Les Schwab Holiday Toy Drive

How much buys happiness in Western Washington?

SEATTLE — Inside a hip Ballard office, Alex Olson is paid to solve problems.

Alex is in customer support and, just down the hall, his wife, Amanda, is dealing with inventory.

The couple got hired at Gravity Payments more than a year ago.

It’s the credit-card processing company that became on overnight sensation in 2015 after CEO Dan Price announced he would pay all his workers at least $70,000 a year. So now the couple makes about $140,000 combined.

“There is definitely a sense of pride. He’s made an effort to give us a livable wage, we really appreciate that,” Alex said.

Gravity says they received 30,000 resumes in three months immediately after word got out about the $70,000 minimum wage.

“It was this dollar amount that they determined, that it was a level of happiness,” Marketing Manager Ryan Pirkle said.

For the Olsons, like many others, owning a home is a big part of that happiness.

“I don’t think we have friends who have a home, in Seattle at least,” Amanda said.

The question is can they find something in Seattle?

“I said to her at one point, I will never live where it’s an hour drive each day,” Alex said.

After months of searching, they finally bought a home -- but not in Seattle.

“As soon as I saw that maybe we could get a 900-foot house with no plumbing and electric for $400,000,” Alex said.

So they moved  on to Shoreline.

“We found that Shoreline was the same,” Amanda said.

Then Lynnwood

“People are offering 102% over asking price,” Amanda said.

They dappled in Renton

“They were relatively competitive, too,” Amanda said.

After many concessions, they settled on a house in Tukwila.

Alex is doing what he said he would never do -- sit in traffic every day.

“It’s trading two hours of your life every day in stressful, terrible traffic, but it’s still worth it because you have a home. You are not dumping away your money on extremely expensive rent,” Alex said.

For about a half-million dollars, they got 2,600 square feet, two chandeliers and an awesome kitchen.

“It’s so nice, very fortunate we have so much room for everything,” Amanda said.

That $70,000 minimum wage from Gravity Payments afforded them the American dream.

“Other people were able to buy houses at least somewhat closer to the office,” Pirkle said.

But for how much longer? It’s a question that comes with the skyrocketing cost-of-living in many parts of Western Washington.

“Seventy-thousand not being what it was two and half years ago -- you are right, I think it’s something that a lot of people will have to wrestle with,” Pirkle said.

Pirkle added that companies that can afford it should pay their workers more.

“We want to be a real-life working example,” Pirkle said.

Critics predicted Gravity would tank; instead they’ve expanded, moving into a new building in Ballard.

“Absolutely, we just moved into this new office ... we’ve doubled our size,” Pirkle said.

And hiring more people like Alex and Amanda

“I feel lucky,” Alex said.

Although they didn’t get to buy in Seattle, they say $70,000 still bought them happiness.