2020 OEDC Stakeholder Report

This report to the economic community is intended to highlight the work of the Office of Economic Development & Competitiveness (OEDC) between July 1, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2020. Where possible, the data covers approximately five years of activity to reflect the long-play nature of economic development, where efforts to strengthen communities statewide can take years to have an impact.

Where applicable, explanatory notes and additional data are provided to more completely and transparently tell the story of economic development at the state, regional and local level.

The OEDC strengthens communities by providing businesses with the solutions they need wherever they are in the business lifecycle, from ideation to exit strategies.

Our work is supported by a large network of economic partners throughout Washington to build a robust, diverse and stable economy, focusing primarily on businesses in rural and historically underserved and underrepresented communities. This includes Commerce’s Resiliency Network, associate development organizations (ADOs), Small Business Development Centers, SCORE offices and other state and federal agencies.

The OEDC is aligned along four core economic development strategies: Business Development, Export Assistance, Key Sectors, and Rural & Marketing Services. The teams within these units are focused on:

  • Underserved & Rural Economies: The OEDC and its many partners work together to support the evolving needs of entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses throughout the state, offering a progression of programs and services designed to build competencies and skills throughout the five stages of a business: Think, Form, Launch, Grow and Optimize. The goal is to provide universal access to the same skillsets, resources, education and training to allow any resident to successfully start, own and operate a business, even in the smallest of communities.

  • Business Recruitment & Investment: By developing, curating and responding to leads from global consultants and investors, the OEDC focuses on business attraction and investment activities so businesses worldwide will actively consider Washington State for their expansion activities. The team also focuses on business retention and expansion support for companies already doing business in the state.
  • Key Sectors: Working closely with the Governor, legislators, industry and the private sector, Sector Leads represent seven high-growth industries – Aerospace, Advanced Manufacturing, Clean Technology, Forest/Wood Products, Information & Communication Technology (ICT), Life Science & Global Health; Maritime; and Military. Their focus is on forging and promoting public-private partnerships, enhancing the workforce for the 21st century in targeted, high-growth industries, and advancing broad stroke strategies that support small business growth and expansion statewide.
  • Promoting Washington State: The OEDC manages the state’s promotional arm, in terms of attracting visitors and businesses to Washington State using traditional and digital strategies, including marketing, social media, websites, collateral and messaging to demonstrate why visitors and business owners should choose Washington. The OEDC also serves as the state’s conduit to promoting tourism through the Washington Tourism Marketing Authority.
  • Workforce, Capital & Assistance: The OEDC oversees the state’s Strategic Reserve Fund, which is used as an economic development tool to attract and retain businesses as well as provide customized workforce training in partnership with local ADOs and colleges.
  • Export Assistance: This team provides technical, financial and international marketing assistance to small businesses to drive increased export sales statewide. This includes administered federally-funded Export Vouchers which offset some of the cost for a small business that wants to engage in international activities such as trade shows or market expansion. In response to the pandemic, the Small Business Export Assistance team shifted their efforts to online webinars to teach exporting competencies and participated in virtual trade shows that were held in place of physical ones in Europe and Asia.

The Office of Economic Development & Competitiveness works with businesses all over the world and all over the state to strengthen and diversify the economy, prepare the workforce of tomorrow, help small businesses become large ones and position the state to weather major economic disruptions caused by shifting policies, world politics and economic shifts. The OEDC partners with economic development organizations throughout the state to leverage assets and maximize ROI.

Highlights of the OEDC’s work over the last five years include:

  • 81 new, retained or expanded businesses, 34.5% of them in rural and underserved parts of the state.
  • 7,889 new or retained jobs across the state.
  • $2.73 billion in new or continued capital investment in Washington’s economy.
  • 1,138 small businesses awarded STEP grants to expand into new markets overseas.
  • 3,976 small businesses assisted with export issues related to tariffs, paperwork, foreign trade zones and reseller permits.
  • $1 billion in new export sales from participation in international trade shows as part of the Washington State delegation.
  • 775 entrepreneurship, startup, small business and exporting webinars, competitions, symposiums and courses conducted, covering all 39 counties.
  • 921,167 unique visits by businesses, investors, site selectors and entrepreneurs to the state’s business attraction and small business websites. The pandemic created a 267% increase in site traffic in 2020.
  • Serving as the lead agency on major economic recovery initiatives to ensure an economy that is equitable, inclusive and diverse, helping small businesses start, restart and rebuild, particularly in rural and historically underserved communities, and positioning the state to seize opportunities in emerging clusters and key sections, including commercial space, clean energy, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and unmanned and autonomous vehicles.
  • Sponsoring dozens of trade shows and trade missions (most virtually, due to the global pandemic), that expose the state’s small businesses to overseas markets and opportunities, including the Paris and Farnborough Air Shows, Hannover Messe, Mobile World Congress and MEDICA.

As the pandemic spread, the OEDC pivoted its operations to meet the needs of small businesses affected by phased orders and public health concerns. This new body of work included new tools and programs to help existing small businesses survive and rebuild in the economic recovery phase as well as start anew, either as a current business owner or as an entrepreneur. This included the Working Washington grants, which provided stop-gap assistance to thousands of businesses across the state.

Pandemic response work included:

  • Round One: $10 million, supported 1,508 businesses.
  • Round Two: $10 million, supporting 1,574 businesses.
  • Round Three: $100 million, supporting 7,931 businesses.
  • Round Four: $240 million, supporting 11,727 businesses.
  • Resiliency Round: $18 million; supported 2,646 small businesses.
  • Awarding $300,000 in relief grants to 43 shellfish growers.
  • Grants for craft beverage establishments, shellfish growers, farmers markets and agritourism: $16 million, supported 839 small businesses.
  • Creating the state’s Economic Recovery Dashboard.
  • Developing a new $30 million Revolving Loan Fund for small businesses.
  • Securing a $15 million federal grant from the EDA for a package of Safe Start projects.
  • Coordinating the production of PPE supplies when hundreds of manufacturers answered Governor Inslee’s call to retool to make PPE. Commerce staff and loaned executives from Impact Washington helped these companies pivot to produce everything from hand sanitizer to face shields and masks.
  • Expanding ScaleUp program to provide free training and support to 230 small businesses trying to navigate the pandemic.
  • Creating a COVID Business Planner to help businesses scale or suspend operations in response to phased health orders as well as resiliency planning for eventual reopening.
  • Revamping Commerce’s small business website to focus on COVID-related content and expanded disaster planning and COVID specific content on Commerce’s website.
  • Pivoting more than 30 staff members in Commerce to manage and process Working Washington grants, including reviews of tens of thousands of applications and processing payments to recipients and answering several thousand calls and emails from small business owners and nonprofits.
  • Creating and conducting dozens of virtual export webinars and B2B meetings to help businesses maintain growth through successful exporting strategies.

Staffing & Budget

OEDC Unit Reports

Business Recruitment, Retention & Expansion

The Business Development unit works with local economic development organizations, site selectors, corporate decision makers and investors to site, relocate and expand business operations throughout Washington State. The unit assists with infrastructure and permitting issues, workforce development, site selection and incentives.

Total # of Recruitment Projects: 86
Domestic: 63    FDI: 23
Total Projected Jobs: 7,558
Total Projected CAPEX: $9.69 billion

Total # of Expansion Projects: 51
Domestic: 46    FDI: 3
Total Projected Jobs: 3,652
Total Projected CAPEX: $2.98 billion

Total # of Projects Won: 41
Total Jobs Created: 4,869
Total CAPEX: $1.67 billion

Total # of Expansion/Retention Projects Won: 40
Total Jobs Created or Retained: 3,020
Total CAPEX: $1.06 billion

Urban (King, Snohomish, Pierce): 28
Rural: 13

Urban (King, Snohomish, Pierce): 15
Rural: 25

Small Business Export Assistance

Exporting can be a very effective expansion strategy for small businesses. This team works with companies throughout the state to connect them with international trade event support, business matchmaking, market intelligence, advocacy and risk mitigation they need to successfully enter new markets or expand activities in existing ones. As the pandemic spread to the U.S. the SBEA team pivoted quickly to host virtual webinars on exporting, online B2B meetings and virtual trade shows and trade missions to provide small businesses, particularly those in rural and underserved communities, with opportunities to engage in and expand their trade operations. This shift in strategy and programming is drawing in new businesses that haven’t considered international trade as a core business activity, creating growth opportunities in a volatile economy as businesses reach out to new markets and new customers abroad. When conditions allow, the SBEA team will pivot once again to a blended model of virtual and in-person events, including 15 international trade shows and missions.

Small Business Export Assistance team members work with small businesses throughout the state to either create new export opportunities or increase existing opportunities through participation in targeted international trade events, market research, matchmaking, consulting and risk mitigation.

Export assisted sales are self-reported by businesses and reflect increased exporting activity attributable to the work or programs offered by the Small Business Export Assistance unit. However, not all businesses complete the requested follow-up reports.

Businesses were supported primarily through the Export Voucher Program, which offers qualifying companies that are new to exports or entering new markets up to $6,000 to offset expenses. Funded in part by the SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program, the vouchers can be used to defray trade show or trade mission fees, airfare, website translation services, export training programs and more. Obviously, the pandemic has affected the program as trade shows were cancelled worldwide to combat COVID-19.

The OEDC actively recruits businesses that represent rural and underserved communities. This chart shows the results of this effort to extend the STEP Voucher program to businesses throughout the state. Results are self-reported and not all businesses self-identify with one of these demographics. Some report in more than one category, such as a veteran-owned business in a rural community.

Small Business, Entrepreneurship & Marketing Programs

To strengthen communities in rural and underserved parts of the state, the OEDC manages programs and services designed to support entrepreneurship, encourage new business enterprises, grow local businesses organically and take second-stage businesses to the next logical level of growth, such as being ready to successfully export. This ecosystem includes programs focused on ideation, technical assistance, training and education and small business growth, from ideation through the second-stage. This unit also directs the state’s business attraction, retention and investment marketing strategies, including the Choose Washington, Maritime Blue and Startup Washington websites. In response to COVID-19, the team realigned all its programming to focus on helping viable small businesses stay in business, help business owners rebuild or restart enterprises, and provide entrepreneurs with the tools and skills needed to start a new business, such as the new Startup Academy and ScaleUp programs.

The “economic gardening” program was approved as a pilot in 2016 to gauge the effectiveness of a strategy for taking second-stage companies to the next level by removing roadblocks to growth. The spike in 2017 was due to our county partners paying for the course fees for enrolled businesses. In 2019, a new contractor was selected and the program had to go through a name change to comply with trademark protections. It is notable that even in the pandemic when businesses were struggling with sales and many were closing, eight second-stage businesses went through the program. Now that the revised branding has begun to gain critical mass of awareness and a new pathway to leads has been, it is anticipated that 2021 will see a significant increase in Thrive! participants statewide.

ScaleUp is a small business program targeted to businesses that have been in operation for two years or more with $100,000 in revenue (pre-COVID). Conducted in conjunction with the Thurston County EDC, ScaleUp was piloted as an in-person series in 2019 in Skagit and Yakima counties, and then moved online when the pandemic struck, allowing more participants to participate in the revised format. In 2021, the program is being modified to use a train-the-trainer format, which will allow more trainers to teach ScaleUp throughout the state. Using this format, OEDC estimates we will be able to move 500 to 1,000 small businesses statewide through the eight-week program.

Global Entrepreneurship Month (GEM) is a month-long version of Global Entrepreneurship Week, which is an international celebration of entrepreneurship filled with seminars, workshops and competitions. Washington has been a leader in hosting these events since its inception. Working closely with local economic development partners, the state has exposed more than 16,000 residents to the idea of starting and running their own business. GEM set a record for events and participation in 2019, with 312 events held statewide, thanks to partnerships with chambers, schools, libraries and economic development organizations. In light of the pandemic, the OEDC small business team had to pivot, redesigning the entire series to be online. It was a rousing success. Registrants were able to hear from a slate of top-notch subject matter experts on topics ranging from what business structure to choose to how to sell online. Based on the success of this new model, the OEDC will be expanding its online GEM concept further in 2021.

MyStartup365.com serves as an online clearinghouse of information to spur entrepreneurship, help small businesses succeed and help second-stage companies grow exponentially. The site includes resources, training education, programs, events and tools for starting and growing a small business, from ideation through the optimization phase when a company is ready to seek investment, begin exporting or be ready for an acquisition or merger. Due to the pandemic, traffic in 2020 increased greatly. The chart shows the number of unique visitors to the site, not including those seeking information about Working Washington grants, which would put the number of unique visitors at 406,646 instead of the 128,961 shown. Interest in additional resources has increased significantly and Commerce responded by adding new programs, including an enhanced ScaleUp series and an Entrepreneur Academy.

ChooseWashington.com is the state’s business attraction and recruitment website, designed to showcase the state’s competitive advantages, key sectors, workforce, quality of life and available properties and land for suitable for development. During the pandemic, site visits grew significantly, in part because of the uneven effect COVID had on the economy, where some sectors grew relatively unscathed by the effects of stay-at-home orders or phased openings. This chart demonstrates continued interest in Washington as a place to do business. It is undergoing a full redesign in 2021 as the economy starts to recover.

  • Working Washington Round 1 grant size: $10,000 per business.
  • Working Washington Round 2 grant size: $2,500 to $10,000. Administered by ADO network.
  • Resiliency Grants awards were $8,000 per business. 660 supplemental grants of $4,500 were awarded in Round 3 of Working Washington.
  • Working Washington Round 3 grant size was $12,500 per business.
  • Working Washington Round 4 grant size was up to $25,000 per business.
  • An additional $300,000 in relief grants awarded to 43 shellfish growers.

Sector Leads

Focusing on high-growth sectors such as aerospace, agriculture/food manufacturing, clean technology, information and communication technology, forest products, life science/global health, maritime, and military/defense sectors, Sector Leads work closely with the Governor, legislators, industry and government leaders to forge and promote public-private partnerships, enhance the workforce for the 21st century in targeted, high-growth industries, and advance broad stroke strategies that support small business growth and expansion statewide.

Non-Commerce dollars attracted to projects and/or communities due to Sector Lead involvement.

Number of stakeholder organizations connected to Sector Lead program on strategic initiatives/projects, including members of key trade associations and businesses, funders, NGO’s and agencies engaged in strategic initiatives/projects.

Sector Lead Successes

University of Washington Clean Energy Testbeds

The second round of Clean Energy Fund investments included $8 million for the establishment of the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds at the University of Washington (UW). The Testbeds facility opened in February 2017 and already has over 150 users.

The UW Clean Energy Institute also received an additional $1 million for the initial design of the Center for Advanced Materials and Clean Energy Technologies (CAMCET). The design process led to the UW’s commitment to the CAMCET building as the first project in the expansion of the UW’s innovation district. The project budget is $159 million.

The Clean Energy Institute (CEI) created the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds to increase the rate at which breakthrough science and engineering discoveries turn into market-adopted clean energy technologies.

The state-of-the-art user facility has labs for manufacturing prototypes, testing devices, and integrating systems. The 15,000-square-foot facility provides researchers and cleantech businesses customized training and access to top-quality fabrication, characterization, and computational instruments. Specifically, these instruments are for printing, coating, and testing the materials and devices needed to achieve ultra-low-cost solar cells and batteries; as well as developing the system integration software and hardware to optimize the performance of devices and systems like vehicles, buildings, and the grid.

The Testbeds include:

  • The Scale-up & Characterization lab at the Testbeds offers a platform for prototyping authentic-scale solar and storage devices as well as testing manufacturing processes.
  • The Systems Integration lab at the Testbeds provides an evaluation platform for testing the performance of energy devices and algorithms when integrated into real and simulated system environments.
  • The Testbeds offer users meeting and office space where they can work, collaborate, and further build their cleantech community.
  • The Research Training Testbed facility provides UW students access to research-quality tools and training in clean energy concepts that cut across academic disciplines.

Partners: UW, Washington Research Foundation, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)

Outside Dollars Leveraged: $6 million from the Washington Research Foundation.

More Information: https://www.cei.washington.edu/facilities/testbeds/

Washington Maritime Blue Initiative

The Washington Maritime Blue Initiative commenced in September 2017 with an award from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration to support the development of a statewide strategic plan to accelerate innovation in the maritime sector. 

Governor Inslee appointed a Maritime Innovation Advisory Council to deliver a full strategy for the Blue Economy and Commerce conducted a multi-stakeholder planning process that engages more than 140 maritime leaders and stakeholders. The Final Strategy was released on in 2018 with an event that included Governor, Advisory Council and 200 maritime stakeholders. 

The Strategic Goals identified in the Strategy include:

  • Shifting toward a thriving, low-carbon industry: Accelerate deep decarbonization of the industry.
  • Becoming a global innovation hub: Drive commercialization of “blue” technologies.
  • Growing gateways: Lead the nation in efficient, clean and safe working waterfronts.
  • Supporting a 21st Century workforce: Support the next generation, inclusive maritime workforce with tech expertise for clean, healthful, living-wage jobs.
  • Establishing a world-class maritime cluster: Formalize a nonprofit organization to implement Washington Maritime Blue collaboration to ensure a strong industry founded on competitive companies and an attractive business climate.

To support the strategy an independent, non-profit cluster organization, Washington Maritime Blue, was formed with the mission to implement the plan. As a partnership between industry, government agencies, research & training institutions, and community organizations, the organization’s mission is to create a world-class, thriving and sustainable maritime industry through knowledge sharing, collaborative R&D, commercialization, business and workforce development.

Partners: Governor’s Maritime Innovation Advisory Board, Steering Committee and Task Force = 140 participating. Funders and Match include: US Commerce – EDA, Port of Seattle, UW-APL, Impact Washington.

Outside Dollars Leveraged: $1,040,000 in Federal Grants, Match and Contributions

More Information: www.maritimeblue.org


The Apprenti apprenticeship training program was created in 2017 to provide a reliable pathway for non-traditional students to gain the training they needed to access to tech jobs. Commerce, via the Strategic Reserve Fund (SRF), seeded the program with a $400,000 grant that was followed-up by a $4 million program through Labor & Industries that is matched dollar for dollar by private sector participants, including Amazon and Microsoft.  Fifty-six Washingtonians were in the first year of the program, more than 110 in the second year of the program, and in 2019 it is anticipated that at least 250 will participate. 

Median age for the program is 33.  Eighty-one percent of Apprenti apprenticeships are women, people of color or military veterans (41% people of color, 35% non-male).  Median wage before the program is $31,000 with little or no benefits; during the apprenticeship, it is $51,000 with benefits; after the program, it is $78,000 with benefits.  Eighty-three percent of participants successfully exit the program into a full-time job where they did their apprenticeship.

The program has a rigorous selection process. There have been 6,167 Washington applications and roughly a quarter of applicants qualify for the program.  Two women, aged 63 and 61, successfully participated in the program as part of their post-divorce transition back into the workforce.  Program participants have been as young as 18, but that is highly unusual. 

The funding model is that the state and companies subsidize tuition costs, the companies pay the apprenticeship costs and Apprenti receives a placement fee after graduation.

Partners: Washington Technology Industry Association, Commerce, L&I, Amazon, Microsoft

Outside Dollars Leveraged: $4 million

More Information: https://apprenticareers.org

Opportunity Zones

Washington State has 139 census tracts designated as Opportunity Zones (OZ), part of a new federal program that gives tax incentives to investors who fund qualified businesses or develop real estate in those selected communities.

Each state could designate up to 25% of its low-income census tracts as OZs and each state approached this differently. Washington State engaged both tribal governments and local communities in the designation process. Every county and each tribe were able to designate at least one tract while the others were determined through a competitive process. As a result, 17 out of the 29 federally recognized tribes and 37 out of 38 eligible counties have at least one OZ.

The state’s only official role under the law was to designate the OZs. However, after Commerce, the Federal Reserve Board of San Francisco and the National Development Council held Listening Sessions around the state, it was clear that many communities – especially tribal and rural areas – need assistance to identify projects, and make them both ready for and attractive to investors.

Commerce has engaged partners to:

  • Bring communities and experts together at a statewide OZ convening in October. Sponsors and foundations funded both the convening and travel scholarships so all OZ communities had the opportunity to attend. The event included one-on-one mentoring for the communities and a special reception for Tribal leaders.
  • Train and build capacity in local businesses and leaders.
    • Create a statewide “learning community” that encourages collaboration and knowledge sharing. This idea was inspired by the Emerald Coast OZ, a collaboration of five tribes, four towns, two counties and two ports that are pooling resources to promote their projects. Now the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and 6 other non-tribal communities have created the North Star Opportunity Zone. Meanwhile, others are reaching across the state to learn from each other and discuss joint partnerships.
    • Bring in social impact investors, foundations and federal funders as both potential project investors and grantors.

Partners: Philanthropy Northwest, Mission Investors Exchange, Seattle Foundation, National Development Council, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Northwest Area Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust and the Thread Fund. Stakeholders include: 139 Tribal, rural and urban communities. Funders include: Commerce, Northwest Area Foundation, Wells Fargo, Enterprise Community Partners, and Opportunity Zone Association of America.

More Information: http://www.emikeflynn.com/index.php/blog/flynn-s-harp/state-offers-session-focusing-on-new-tax-break-opportunity-zones


New Mid-Market Aircraft Council & Strategy
Boeing determined the commercial market was large enough for their company to potentially launch a new aircraft design.  In 2017, Boeing Commercial Airplanes began customer discussions on their next aircraft, dubbed the New Mid-Market Airplane (NMA), or 797.  This composite aircraft would be twin-aisle with an elliptical cross-section, with seating capacity between 225 and 275 seats and a flying range of up to 5,000 nautical miles.

The Governor’s Office and the Washington State Department of Commerce initiated the development of the NMA Council and convened the first meeting in December 2017 to help position the state as the logical location to headquarter the new airline program.

The partners mentioned above raised more than $375,000 to help fund the effort to promote Washington State as the best place for the NMA.

The following activities occurred:

  • State tours to training campuses in Everett, Spokane and Lakewood, the ports of Everett and Moses Lake, regional airports including the Bremerton National Airport and Tacoma Narrows Airport.

Partners: Economic Alliance of Snohomish County, PSRC, Central Washington University, Cities of Bothell, Bremerton, Fife, Gig Harbor, Issaquah, Kent, Lake Stevens, Lynnwood, Mill Creek, Moses Lake, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo, Poulsbo, Puyallup, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish, Seattle, Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Spokane, Sumner, Tacoma, Grant County EDC, Counties of Kitsap and Spokane, Olympic College, Ports of Bremerton, Moses Lake, Seattle, Tacoma, Wenatchee Valley College and Workforce Snohomish

Outside Dollars Leveraged: Contributing Partners – Financial Support: Aerospace Futures Alliance, Big Bend Community College, Center for Excellence, City of Arlington, City of Auburn, City of Everett, City of Marysville, City of Tukwila, EDC of Seattle-King County, Edmonds Community College, King County Department of Executive Services, Kitsap Aerospace and Defense Alliance, Pierce County Executive, Port of Everett, Snohomish County, Spokane International Airport, University of Washington – Seattle, Washington State University – Pullman, IAM and SPEEA

More Information: nma.choosewashingtonstate.com