DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE OVERVIEW
From Choose Washington 2023 -2024
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Commerce Helps Businesses Find Solid Ground

Looking to grow your company? The state stands ready to assist.

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE OVERVIEW
by RON STARNER
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usinesses looking to grow in Washington have an ally in the Washington State Department of Commerce. Whether it’s finding buildings and sites, getting help in filing permits, or qualifying for incentives, the Commerce exists to help companies overcome barriers to expansion and hiring.

The proof is in the performance. Through its Office of Economic Development & Competitiveness, the agency has amassed a track record of delivering growth over the last five years. From Jan. 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2022, the OEDC facilitated the expansion of 81 new, retained or expanded businesses that resulted in 15,844 new or retained jobs across the state.

Highlights of OEDC, 2018-2022:

  • The agency facilitated $2.73 billion in new or continued capital investment.
  • STEP grants were awarded to 1,138 small businesses to expand into new markets in other countries.
  • Help with export issues related to tariffs, bookkeeping, reseller permitting and foreign trade zones was extended to 3,976 small businesses.
  • International trade show participation with a delegation of Washington leaders helped achieve $1 billion in new export sales. 
  • The state’s ScaleUp program that teaches critical skills to business owners helped 1,226 small businesses.
  • The state’s primary business recruitment site — www.choosewashingtonstate.com — saw 166,900 unique visitors leading to 448,181 page views in 2022, a jump of 28% from 2021.
  • Go Global grants went to 100 businesses in Washington to help them improve their websites, add e-commerce components or otherwise enhance their digital marketing.

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE AP-2

There are plenty of other accomplishments, but as the lead agency on growing the state economy, the Commerce works every day to attract new business to Washington and help make existing state businesses stronger and more competitive in an ever-changing global economy. The work of Commerce is a big reason why the state landed several heavyweight deals over the past year, according to the Conway Projects Database, the proprietary project counter of Site Selection magazine.

The Fab Five of Projects, 2023:

  • BP America chose to invest $1.5 billion in Blaine.
  • Group14 Technologies announced it would invest $614 million in Moses Lake.
  • SkyNRG B.V./SkyNRG Americas is investing $600 million into a sustainable aviation fuel plant to service the aviation and aerospace sector in Washington.
  • Twelve Benefit Corp. said it would commit $90 million to expand in Moses Lake.
  • NORPAC Resources announced a $50 million project in Longview.

Success stories like these contribute daily to the improvement of the overall Washington economy. According to WalletHub, Washington owns the No. 1 Best State Economy in the nation, with an overall score of 68.13 — well ahead of runner-up Utah, which posted 65.04.

Gov. Jay Inslee works hard to keep it that way. That’s why he is a big advocate of the state’s Job Skills Program, a 40-year-old initiative that connects employers with accredited Washington colleges and then subsidizes the training and reskilling programs needed by the employees of the participating companies. 

In a recent blog on the Governor’s webpage, Inslee said, “The program began in 1983 at the direction of the Legislature to help businesses and employees adapt to competitive forces and new technologies. When a new plant opens, the program helps train prospective employees to accelerate early operations. When an industry takes a turn, the program helps its workers discover new fields. And where companies are pushing the envelope, the program helps workers sharpen cutting-edge skills.”

 


Employers get exactly the training they need on their schedule at their location, and employees learn valuable skills that will help them in their careers for years to come.

— Carolyn McKinnon, Head of Job Skills Program and Policy Associate for Workforce Education, Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges


 

Inslee explained why the program is so popular: “It’s an easy sell for businesses. Employees are trained onsite, on the business’ schedule, for specific business needs. Employers work with local community or technical colleges, public and nonprofit universities, and licensed private career schools to develop tailored training. And they pay for just 50% of the training in cash or in-kind payments like materials and wages.”

Innovation on Multiple Levels

Carolyn McKinnon, who oversees the program for the state, says it’s a good deal for everyone involved. “Employers get exactly the training they need on their schedule and their location, and employees learn valuable skills that will help them in their careers for years to come.”

Since 1983, more than 75,000 workers in Washington have been educated and trained through the Job Skills Program.

Innovation like this occurs all over Washington, much of it backed by the resources of Commerce. Another project taking root in the Evergreen State, for example, is a multistory warehouse building by Prologis and Craft Architects in Seattle. Together, they developed a 13.67-acre industrial parcel into the first-ever multistory warehouse of its kind in the U.S., according to a report just released by the research team at JLL.

The 590,000-sq.-ft. facility has three levels, including loading docks on each floor. Access to an international airport, growing population and international markets were factors in Prologis selecting this location, according to JLL.

Every step of the way, for projects like this and others, the Washington State Department of Commerce stands ready to make deals happen and connect workers to good jobs. 

Ron Starner
Executive Vice President of Conway, Inc.

Ron Starner

Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.

  





As the No. 1 state in the nation, Washington’s economic strengths continue to earn top honors and attract new investments.






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