2023 OEDC Stakeholder Report

Small Business Training and Education | State Marketing

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.

Post-pandemic, 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 Web Academy on the state’s Small Business Training & Education Center, MyStartup365.com.

This OEDC unit also serves as the marketing agency for the state as a place to do business, invest and visit. It is responsible for the Choose Washington brand, which is used for international trade shows, recruitment and retention activities, and as a promotional vehicle for touting the state’s competitive advantages. This unit also manages the state’s tourism marketing contract with State of Washington Tourism, which operates the state’s tourism site.

Small Business Training & Education

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 These companies, often referred to as “gazelles,” are poised for explosive growth with the right business intelligence. In 2022, the program led to the creation of 30.5 new jobs, a $10.9 million increase in revenue, $4.3 million in new investments, and a nearly 12 to 1 return on the state’s investment in the program. One recent graduate of Thrive! was able to increase their profits by 900% in just a year after completing the program. Program capacity is 18, given current funding levels and capacity limitations of the contractor, the Edward Lowe Foundation.

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. The progam is expanding to ensure that it is available to historically underpresented communities. And all-Spanish version was added in 2023 and is now part of the program’s regular schedule. 

Enrolled businesses are 65% women-owned, 34% minority-owned and 8% veteran-owned.

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 23,000 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. Post pandemic, GEM events returned to either an in-person or hybrid model. Five live sessions hosted by the OEDC and its associate development organization partners were held across the state in 2023. Additional events were hosted by economic development organizations in communities throughout Washington. 

MyStartup365.com serves the state’s Small Business Training & Education Center, 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. Post pandemic, the site continued to build an audience, adding a new Web Academy, Creatives Academy and several new training modules. The content is availabe in 50+ languages.

State Marketing

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. This chart demonstrates continued interest in Washington as a place to do business and invest. The site underwent a full redesign in 2023 to improve the user experience, update information throughout and add new site selector capabilities, features and datasets. The site is managed by OEDC without the use of outside consultants or designers. 

From large-scale trade shows and site selector requests for information to brochures, presentations and videos, the OEDC Marketing Unit provides the state with internal design and production services, from copywriting and editing to high-end graphic design. The team serves as the state’s marketing arm for attracting business, investment and visitors to Washington, serving as the de facto creative agency for the Choose Washington brand. The 2020 reduction in projects completed represents the start of the pandemic when many international events were cancelled due to health concerns.