All posts by Penny Thomas

Study: Lack of skilled workers puts Washington state’s life science industry “future at risk”

High demand, stiff competition for IT and skilled production workers threaten current and long-term growth of key sector that today employs nearly 30,000 across the state

Updated 10/20/2017
OLYMPIA, WA – Washington state’s life sciences industry is facing a critical lack of skilled workers that threaten to stunt future growth, according to a report released today by the state Department of Commerce. The full labor market analysis, commissioned by Commerce’s industry sector lead and funded by Governor Inslee, was conducted in close consultation with the governor’s Life Science and Global Health Workforce Panel, a selected group of 25 public and private industry and educational stakeholders including representatives of Life Science Washington, Washington Global Health Alliance, and the state Employment Security Department.

The report, Assessing Washington’s Life Science and Global Health Workforce Dynamics: Enhancing Connections and Addressing the Skills Gap to Ensure Future Growth, notes that while Washington has built a sizeable life science industry employing nearly 30,000 in high-quality jobs, future growth and competitiveness face challenging headwinds, with workforce issues the top concern. Industry data showed recent stagnation in job gains, patent activity and industrial research and development here compared to the U.S. and competitor states.

Average wages in the industry are $84,156 with above-average concentration in research, testing and medical labs. Washington is also a leader in the related, primarily nonprofit global health sector.

A primary cause for concern is intense competition for similar talent and STEM graduates sought by the region’s huge IT and aerospace industries. The assessment identified eight groups of workers in high-demand: life-science-related engineers; medical and clinical lab technicians; regulatory affairs; bioinformatics/biostatistics; engineers and engineering technicians; information technology; skilled production; and marketing and technical sales reps.

“The report tells us we need better alignment with industry needs and existing workforce capabilities,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “The good news is the study helps provide a roadmap to accomplishing that. It highlights the industry’s strengths, such as its workforce diversity as compared to other high tech industries.”

Diversity and inclusion in the workforce is one bright spot in the report. Washington’s life science employers are faring better at engaging women in the industry than the nation and are doing much better than other large manufacturing and IT sectors in the state economy. Since 2000, life science employers have also increased the share of racial minorities from 16 percent to 22 percent, signaling progress in inclusion as well as gender representation.

Bonlender joined Leslie Alexandre, executive director of Life Science Washington, Denise McCarthy, executive director of Oregon Bioscience Association, and Lori Stewart, vice president of human resources at Adaptive Biotechnologies to discuss the study and workforce challenges at the Life Science Washington Governor’s Summit in Bellevue tomorrow. Life Science Washington is the state’s leading industry association of biomedical and biotech companies.

Download the study here.

Press Contact:

Penny Thomas,, (206) 256-6106


Attorney Christopher Poulos named to head Washington State Reentry Council

From penitentiary to White House, new executive director uniquely qualified to lead policy efforts to address addiction, help former inmates successfully rejoin workforce

Christopher Poulos will serve as executive director of the Washington Statewide Reentry Council, appointed by Department of Commerce Director Brian Bonlender and the council following a nationwide search.

“Chris Poulos, whose compelling personal journey includes taking himself from homelessness, addiction, and prison to law school and serving in the White House and on Capitol Hill, is uniquely qualified to lead our efforts to develop this state’s ‘hidden workforce,’ encouraging successful transitions from incarceration to workplace. We are delighted to have Chris on board,” Bonlender said.

Poulos, once a homeless teenager and now a licensed attorney, served nearly three years in a federal prison for a drug-related conviction. His inspiring story was chronicled by the Washington Post, NBC News and others. He presented a TED Talk in 2015. Poulos also was interviewed by TVW’s Austin Jenkins on Inside Olympia.

Prior to taking the helm at Washington’s Reentry Council this month, Poulos served as executive director of Life of Purpose Treatment at the University of North Texas, where he was also an adjunct professor of criminal justice. During law school, he served in the Obama White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and The Sentencing Project. Poulos has advised United States Senator Angus King (I-Maine) on addiction and justice policy and served on several task forces related to criminal justice policy. He graduated cum laude from the University of Maine School of Law, where he was president of the American Constitution Society and represented children facing criminal charges as a student attorney in the Juvenile Justice Clinic.

“I am incredibly honored and privileged to serve as Executive Director of the Washington Statewide Reentry Council,” Poulos said. “The fact that the Council and Department of Commerce selected a person who has both professional and personal reentry experience speaks volumes on the state’s commitment to developing smart and innovative policies regarding community reentry following criminal justice system involvement. I plan to work closely with the Council, state government, and the public to seize this opportunity to promote public safety by helping provide pathways to success for people reentering society.”

Learn more about the goals and policy work of the new Washington Statewide Reentry Council here.


State Startup Center for Entrepreneurial Success ramps up under Inland Northwest Partners leadership

Washington state’s small business assistance programs in Asotin and Whitman counties help rural entrepreneurs realize startup dreams, attract $20K contribution from Avista

OLYMPIA, WA – The Washington State Department of Commerce’s Startup Washington 365 program is increasing efforts to support entrepreneurs in Asotin and Whitman counties through a new relationship with Inland Northwest Partners (INP). The non-profit based in Liberty Lake, WA is currently recruiting a full-time program manager to lead and build services offered through the Startup Washington Center for Entrepreneurial Success to new businesses in these rural communities.

Education, access to experts in fields such as law and accounting, and a host of mentorship and networking opportunities are available through and

 “We are excited to build out services that focus on connecting entrepreneurs with resources to further their development, champion entrepreneurship and promote the Startup Washington 365 program throughout the region,” said Sharon Williams, executive director, Inland Northwest Partners/Inland Northwest Economic Alliance.

The Washington state legislature approved $250,000 to fund Commerce’s Startup Washington 365 rural economic development programs through the 2017-19 biennium. Spokane-based investor-owned utility Avista contributed an additional $20,000 to support the new work led by Inland Northwest Partners.

“The contract with Inland Northwest Partners enables us to enhance the Startup Washington 365 program in Southeastern Washington, continuing our focus on helping entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses,” said Steve Trabun, regional business development manager with Avista. The company was instrumental in establishing and growing Greater Spokane Incorporated’s Startup Spokane program and remains one of its central investors.

“This strategic economic development initiative contributes to Avista’s commitment to create economically healthy and vibrant rural communities,” Trabun said.

“Public-private collaboration is core to the goals and success of Startup Washington 365,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “Nurturing the talent, innovation and drive of home-grown entrepreneurs by connecting them with mentors and professional services spurs economic growth and jobs, strengthening rural communities throughout Washington state.”

Since inception in 2015, Startup Washington 365 has helped nearly 200 entrepreneurs who have succeeded in establishing 51 new ventures.

5-0 Guide Services is one of those early success stories in Asotin County. Owner Greg Egbert established a fishing guide service in Scenic Hells Canyon, offering salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and bass expeditions year-round in North America’s deepest river gorge.

“Thank you Startup Asotin for providing a one-stop location for local entrepreneurs to quickly identify the specific resources needed to grow,” Egbert said. He listed a few of the resources he gained through the program, including:

  • Access to free, informative seminars
  • Ability to network with area experts
  • Collaboration with fellow entrepreneurs
  • Information on how to access local resources such as the Small Business Development Center

Expansion of the Startup Asotin and Startup Whitman programs includes an ongoing partnership with Walla Walla Community College. In-person outreach will be provided through the Pullman-based program manager and championed by Avista regional business managers and other partners and sponsors. For more information, visit or


Commerce designates new North Central Washington Technology Zone, renews Innovation Partnership Zone status for Vancouver and Skagit Valley

Innovation Partnership Zones (IPZs) connect research, private sector, workforce partners to spur development in target clusters

OLYMPIA, WA – The Washington State Department of Commerce today designated a new Innovation Partnership Zone (IPZ) and reauthorized two other IPZs to help spur regional economic growth through key sectors such as manufacturing, global health and technology.

“Innovation Partnership Zones is an important tool that helps communities determine for themselves their economic future. It strengthens communities by facilitating a thoughtful and strategic planning process that ultimately converts into opportunities for new and targeted job growth.  I congratulate the newest member of our vibrant IPZ community, the North Central Washington Technology Zone, and the ongoing successes of those in Vancouver and Skagit Valley,” said Brian Bonlender, state Commerce director.

New IPZ Designation:

  • North Central Washington Technology Zone, North Central Workforce Development Council
  • Re-Designations:

    IPZs are designated for four-year terms. The following IPZs were designated in 2013 and retained their status:

  • Applied Digital Technology IPZ, Vancouver/Camas, City of Vancouver
  • Skagit Valley Value Added Agriculture IPZ, Skagit, Economic Development Association Skagit County
  • “The IPZ designation for the North Central Washington Technology Zone is great news! The collaborative effort of this partnership is building a strong platform that connects local business and industry, expands cutting-edge research and propels technology and innovation to new heights. This confluence is timely and will only continue to strengthen our local economy, grow jobs and create new opportunities for North Central businesses and our citizens,” said Dave Petersen, executive director, North Central Workforce Development Council.

    “On behalf of all our IPZ partners including the Port of Skagit, WSU Research and the Bread Lab, Skagit Valley College, Skagit County, the city of Mount Vernon, the farmers of Skagit, Skagit Valley Malting, Northwest Agriculture Business Center, Nothwest Innovation Resource Center, and others, we are delighted that the Skagit Value-Added Agriculture IPZ has been re-designated by the Department of Commerce,” said John Sternlicht, CEO of the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County, the IPZ’s administrator. “Our primary goals are to promote innovation in agriculture and find new and sustainable sources of revenue from agriculture here, including new products and markets, new venues, new activities and new technologies.”

    Teresa Brum, City of Vancouver, Economic Development Division manager, said, “We are very pleased with the renewal of the Innovation Partnership Zone designation. The City of Vancouver looks forward to working with our partners to implement the next phase of the IPZ!”

    Created 10 years ago, the goal of Innovation Partnership Zones is to stimulate growth of industry clusters and build strong regional economies. IPZs empower regions to form partnerships among research entities, private-sector partners, and workforce training to collaborate and develop commercially viable technologies. To learn more about Innovation Partnership Zones and choosing Washington state as your place to do business, visit


  • AuburnUrban Center for Innovative Partnerships, (2011~City of Auburn). More information: Doug Lein (253) 804-3101
  • BothellBothell Biomedical Device IPZ, (2007~City of Bothell). More information: Bob Stowe (425) 486-3256
  • Grays HarborGrays Harbor IPZ, (2007~Port of Grays Harbor). More information: Alissa Shay (360) 482-1651
  • Issaquah – Sports Medicine Innovation Partnership Zone, (2015~City of Issaquah). More information: Jen Davis-Hayes (425) 837-3414
  • RedmondInteractive Media and Digital Arts IPZ, (2011~City of Redmond and Economic Development Council of Seattle-King County). More information: John Marchione (425) 556-2101
  • Snohomish – Aerospace Convergence Zone, (2007~Economic Development Council of Snohomish County). More information: Matt Smith (425) 248-4219
  • SpokaneSpokane University District IPZ, (2007~Greater Spokane Incorporated). More information: Robin Toth (509) 321-3636
  • Tri Cities Tri Cities Research District, (2007~Port of Benton). More information: Diahann Howard (509) 375-3060
  • Thurston – Thurston Craft Brewing and Distilling Innovation Partnership Zone, (2015~Thurston County). More information: Michael Cade (360) 754-6320
  • Walla WallaWalla Walla Valley IPZ, (2007~City of Walla Walla). More information: Tim McCarty (509) 527-4540
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    U.S. Department of Commerce Invests $500K in Washington state maritime sector innovation

    Washington Maritime Blue 2050” project aims to lead the nation in sustainable ocean industry technology and practices, earns regional innovation strategy grant

    OLYMPIA, WA – The Washington State Department of Commerce was awarded a $500,000 grant through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program to support Washington Maritime Blue 2050, a statewide vision for creating and expanding the nation’s most sustainable ocean industry and technology cluster. Every federal dollar is matched with state and local funds.

    The ‘Blue Economy’ is taking off around the world, from ships humming with electric engines to port efficiency and automation and the first zero-emission terminal now under construction. Studies predict that in coming decades, scientific and technological advances will play a crucial role in addressing ocean-related environmental challenges and ocean-based economic activities.

    “Maritime activity has long been a pillar of Washington state’s economy,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Today we are uniquely poised to lead the country in maritime clean tech innovation and best management practices that create living-wage jobs, a healthy environment, and resilient communities.”

    Every segment of the state’s $37.8 billion maritime sector will be affected by technological advances in coming years, so leaders in government, research, businesses and academic communities are working together to capitalize on prime opportunities with Washington Maritime Blue: 2050 Vision for Accelerating Innovation.

    The project has three main objectives:
    • Set the course for sustainable maritime industry innovation. The Washington Maritime BLUE 2050 is a strategy to ensure Washington State is home of the most sustainable maritime industry by 2050, aligned with Governor Inslee’s plans for deep de-carbonization, innovation and workforce development.
    • Support strong blue tech cluster coordination, forming strategic alliances, growth in trade, and increased jobs.
    • Support development of the Washington Maritime Innovation Center at the Port of Seattle, in partnership with the Port of Seattle and the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab.

    “Receiving this grant acknowledges the strong connections created through our sector lead program to ensure our state is positioned to thrive and lead in the increasingly competitive international marketplace for maritime services,” Commerce Director Brian Bonlender said. “Washington’s maritime industry strengthens communities all over the state by employing a diverse workforce of nearly 70,000.
    Our goal is to build on that by creating a green, efficient, sustainable maritime sector that will serve as a model for the rest of the country.”

    The $500,000 grant is matched in-kind by the Port of Seattle, which is providing space for the Washington Maritime Innovation Center, and the University of Washington Applied Physics Lab providing staff time.

    The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE), housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), leads the Regional Innovation Strategies Program to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. The program is authorized through the America COMPETES reauthorization Act of 2010, and has received dedicated appropriations since fiscal year 2014.

    Commerce was one of 42 organizations — including nonprofits, institutions of higher education, and entrepreneurship-focused organizations from 28 states that received over $17 million to create and expand cluster-focused proof-of-concept and commercialization programs, and early-stage seed capital funds through RIS. The awardees were selected from a pool of more than 217 applicants.

    Press Contact:

    Penny Thomas,, (206) 256-6106


    State board approves $100K to study Arlington Marysville Manufacturing Center

    Community Economic Revitalization Board awards grants for feasibility studies in Snohomish County

    OLYMPIA, WA – The Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) today announced $100,000 toward public infrastructure development and new economic feasibility studies on the Arlington Marysville Manufacturing Industrial Center near Smokey Point in Snohomish County. The center spans over 4,000 acres including land within the boundaries of both Arlington and Marysville, with close access to Paine Field and Interstate 5. Capacity for additional development includes partially used, redevelopment and vacant sites.

    The CERB funding approved yesterday afternoon will help pay for two consecutive feasibility studies to establish a master plan, economic development, an investment and transportation strategy to facilitate infrastructure improvements and accommodate, attract, and retain industrial and manufacturing uses.

    Snohomish County: $50,000 grant to the city of Arlington for its portion of the center, approximately 57 percent of the area. The CERB grant is matched by $16,667 in local resources.

    Snohomish County: $50,000 grant to the city of Marysville for its portion of the center, approximately 44 percent of the area. The CERB grant is matched by $16,667 in local resources.

    “The Community Economic Revitalization Board is dedicated to helping communities across the state develop the infrastructure to attract, retain and grow businesses and jobs. These investments will have a positive economic impact at a time when it is needed the most,” said CERB Chair Randy Hayden.

    “I applaud this collaboration between the cities of Arlington and Marysville toward a regional economic development strategy that can potentially multiply the impact of the state’s investment,” said Brian Bonlender, director of the Washington State Department of Commerce. “Working together, they are creating opportunities for new business growth and manufacturing jobs that will strengthen communities throughout Snohomish County.”

    The release of CERB funds to these projects is contingent upon each applicant completing specific pre-contract requirements, such as finalizing other funding sources and obtaining necessary permits.

    Preview CERB’s 2015 -17 Biennium in Review and check out CERB’s interactive project map for the 2015-17 approved projects.

    Since 1982, CERB has committed nearly $176 million to local jurisdictions across the state, an investment generating more than 35,000 jobs, and private capital investments of a $5.6 billion ($34 to $1) return on CERB investment.

    As Washington’s strategic economic development resource, CERB is focused on creating private sector jobs in partnership with local governments by financing infrastructure improvements. These improvements encourage new business development and expansion. In addition to funding construction projects, CERB provides limited funding for studies that evaluate high-priority economic development projects. Learn more about CERB at

    Press Contact:

    Penny Thomas,, (206) 256-6106


    Washington state receives $900K SBA grant to boost small business exports

    More than $512 million in sales attributed to State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) since inception

    OLYMPIA, WA – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has awarded the Washington State Department of Commerce a sixth year of funding to help state small businesses grow through exporting. The $900,000 grant, part of the SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP), is the highest and maximum amount awarded from a total $18 million nationwide.

    Commerce will use the funds to continue a number of successful export assistance programs for small businesses, including export vouchers, support for industry focused trade shows and trade missions, inbound buyer events and export training.

    More than 580 small businesses around the state have benefited from about $5.1 million in STEP-funded support since the program’s inception through the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. They have achieved over $512 million in sales, creating an estimated return on investment of about 100:1. Of these small businesses, 170 are located in 25 rural Washington counties – or almost 30 percent of all participating STEP companies.

    “In the Pacific Northwest, we know that trade is crucial to growing the economy,” Washington Senator Maria Cantwell said. “The STEP program has already supported 2,770 jobs in Washington state. With these new grants, I am certain more Washington businesses will create more jobs by seizing the opportunity to increase exports to growing markets overseas.”

    “The STEP program helps support hundreds of local exporters,” said U.S. Congressman Rick Larsen (WA-02) “and every dollar spent through STEP returns 98 dollars to Washington’s economy. This nearly million-dollar investment will help create jobs and boost Washington state’s small businesses.”

    “Washington is the most trade-centered state in America and no other has shown a larger return on investment from our State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) work. Congratulations to our international trade team at Commerce on again being rewarded with the largest possible STEP grant to continue their outstanding assistance to our state’s new and growing exporters,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Our strong success doesn’t happen by accident – it is possible only when we invest in promoting our world-class products, our incredible ports and helping small and mid-size business access foreign markets.”

    “One in three jobs throughout Washington state are tied to international trade, so growing exports has direct impact on strengthening communities all over the state,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “Small businesses need targeted programs such as STEP and the Export Finance Assistance Center of Washington to help them tap into worldwide markets. We use these flexible federal dollars to introduce new companies to exporting and help rural communities participate in our state’s trade economy.”

    Bonlender added, “Commerce is eager for the Washington Legislature to renew state funding for these programs so that we can accelerate and expand services and support to small business as soon as possible.”

    For information about STEP export vouchers or other Commerce programs that help Washington businesses grow, expand and locate in Washington State, please visit

    Press Contact:

    Penny Thomas,, (206) 256-6106


    $10 million in grants awarded to 23 rural Washington communities

    Grants from $24,000 to $750,000 will fund vital local projects throughout the state

    OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington State Department of Commerce announced that 23 cities and counties will receive a total of more than $10 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) for 2017. More than two dozen projects were selected from 37 grant applications requesting over $18 million. These grants are used to improve rural water, sewer, street and fire protection systems, support affordable housing and community planning.

    “These infrastructure investments in our communities are crucial to support and sustain healthy local economies that work for all Washingtonians,” Gov. Jay Inslee said.

    “These grants will help strengthen rural communities by addressing a diverse range of essential needs, from priority infrastructure to affordable housing and economic development,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “Commerce works closely with local government leaders to target strategic investments that will best support immediate needs and vision for the future of their communities.”

    2017 Washington State Community Development Block Grant Awards:

  • Town of Almira – $750,000 for water system improvements
  • Benton County – $750,000 for water system improvements
  • City of Cle Elum – $24,000 for capital facilities comprehensive plan
  • City of Colville – $24,000 for emergency center feasibility plan
  • Cowlitz County – $222,410 for housing rehabilitation program
  • Cowlitz County – $188,707 for public housing rehabilitation program
  • Town of Creston – $24,000 for a wastewater system
  • Town of La Crosse – $24,000 for a water system improvement plan
  • City of Newport – $750,000 for new reservoir, main, and water treatment facility
  • Town of Odessa – $24,000 for a general sewer plan
  • Town of Pe Ell – $750,000 for water system improvements
  • City of Pomeroy – $508,468 for booster pump station and water main replacement
  • Town of Reardan – $24,000 for sewer infiltration and inflow study
  • Town of Rosalia – $734,665 for water mains, service lines, and meter boxes
  • City of Royal City – $580,000 for wastewater disinfection system
  • San Juan County – $436,069 for expansion of Montessori School
  • City of Sprague – $24,000 for flood damage repair plan
  • City of Tekoa – $750,000 for wastewater lift station improvements
  • City of Tonasket – $24,000 for downtown corridor revitalization plan
  • Town of Twisp – $750,000 for civic and community center construction
  • City of Wapato – $750,000 for streets and infrastructure improvements
  • Town of Washtucna – $750,000 for new water well
  • Whatcom County – $500,000 for housing rehabilitation program
  • Whatcom County – $750,000 for medical clinic expansion
  • City of Winlock – $24,000 for culvert replacement plan
  • The state CDBG program receives an annual funding allocation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and targets assistance to benefit lower income persons in rural areas. Larger cities and counties receive CDBG funding directly from HUD. Since 1982, the state CDBG program has awarded more than $508 million in grants to over 1,418 locally prioritized community development projects. CDBG will partner with other state, federal, local and private resources to leverage over $16 million of project costs. Capital to provide flexible gap funding for these important community projects continues to be under pressure from federal budget reductions. For more detailed information about CDBG, please visit

    Press Contact:

    Penny Thomas,, (206) 256-6106

    Local Contacts:

    Town of Almira – Elinar Larson, (509) 639-2601

    Benton County – Adam Fyall, (509) 736-3053

    City of Cle Elum – Robert Omans, (509) 674-2262

    City of Colville – Louis Janke, (509) 684-5095

    Cowlitz County – Katrina Harris, (360) 577-3065

    Town of Creston – Karen Paulsen, (509) 636-3145

    Town of La Crosse – Randy Camp, (509) 549-3330

    City of Newport – Ray King, (509) 447-5611

    Town of Odessa – Lois Hubbard, (509) 982-2401

    Town of Pe Ell – Lonnie Wiley, (360) 291-3543

    City of Pomeroy – Shaun Martin, (509) 843-1601

    Town of Reardan – Jeff Evers, (509) 796-3921

    Town of Rosalia – Nanette Konishi, (509) 523-5991

    City of Royal City – Shilo Christensen, (509) 346-2263

    San Juan County – Mark Tompkins, (360) 378-7517

    City of Sprague – Christie Saucier, (509) 257-2662

    City of Tekoa – Kynda Browning, (509) 284-3861

    City of Tonasket – Alice Attwood, (509) 486-2132

    Town of Twisp – Jackie Moriarity, (509) 997-4081

    City of Wapato – Gary Potter, (509) 877-3622

    Town of Washtucna – Brian Hille, (509) 646-3253

    Whatcom County – Suzanne Mildner, (360) 778-5200

    City of Winlock – Tedi Curry, (360) 785-3811


    State funds efforts to help homeless schoolchildren, families

    More than $1.5 million in grants awarded for Homeless Student Stability programs across the state

    As families face rising rents and historically low housing vacancy rates, more school children are increasingly living in unstable situations, moving frequently among shelters, family and friends’ homes, and other temporary housing.

    According to the 2017 Point in Time Count for Washington state, approximately 4,100 youth are homeless, 2,000 of whom are unaccompanied.

    Improving the learning and housing stability of those students takes a coordinated approach. A grant program started in 2016, and renewed this year, will help with that effort.

    The Washington State Department of Commerce and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction recently awarded a total of nearly $1.7 million to 26 organizations around the state. The grants supplement school districts’ ability to provide in-school support, prioritizing unaccompanied youth and unsheltered students and families.

    “Growing inside our thriving state economy is a homeless crisis that touches thousands of Washington families,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. ”Schools are the heart of our neighborhoods, and these grants are strengthening communities by providing stability for kids and their families who are struggling.”

    The state legislature passed Third Substitute House Bill 1682 in 2016. The bill established the Homeless Student Stability Program and authorized two sets of annual grants, if funding is available:

    • From the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, to build homeless education program capacity at school districts; and
    • From the Department of Commerce, to support Homeless Housing Partnerships (HHP) between school districts and housing entities.

    Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal was a member of the House of Representatives at the time, and was one of the 3SHB 1682’s sponsors.

    “Without stable housing, students lose an estimated three to six months of academic progress each time they move to a new school,” Reykdal said. “The grants will provide crucial in-school support for those students.”

    The grants also will fund caseworkers, or “homeless housing navigators,” in schools, as well as to provide essential needs, such as transportation to get students to school after they move, or assistance to avoid utilities being shut off in family homes.

    Department of Commerce

    The department received 14 applications from school districts and their non-profit community service organizations across the state, with a total request of $2,085,249.  State funding allowed for nine awards totaling $875,000. The awards will help school districts identify homeless students and unaccompanied youth and rapidly connect them with housing services and agencies in their communities.

    Districts awarded grants are:

    • Evergreen Public Schools, partnering with Council for the Homeless, $270,000
    • Bellingham Consortia, partnering with Opportunity Council and Northwest Youth Services, $195,000
    • Highline Public Schools, partnering with Neighborhood House, $118,000
    • Wenatchee School District, partnering with Women’s Resource Center, $72,000
    • Everett Public Schools, partnering with Cocoon House, $60,000
    • Woodland School District, partnering with Love Overwhelming, $55,000
    • Shelton School District, partnering with Mason County Housing Options for Students in Transition, $45,000
    • Mount Vernon School District, partnering with YMCA Oasis Teen Shelter, $35,000
    • South Whidbey School District, partnering with Opportunity Council, $25,000


    OSPI received 47 applications from across the state, requesting more than $3.9 million in total. State funding allowed for 12 awards totaling about $850,000. The funds will be used for a variety of programs, such as professional development for staff, partnerships with community-based organizations and tutors for homeless students.

    Organizations receiving grants include:

    • Bellingham Consortia, $52,228
    • Bethel School District, $92,127
    • Evergreen School District (Clark County), $83,943
    • Kelso Consortia, $111,452
    • Mount Adams School District, $65,422
    • North Thurston Public Schools, $98,654
    • Seattle Public Schools, $91,697
    • Selah School District, $4,000
    • South Whidbey School District, $64,000
    • Spokane School District, $55,000
    • Tacoma School District, $104,207
    • Taholah School District, $25,200


    Penny Thomas, Commerce Communications, (206) 256-6106

    Nathan Olson, OSPI Director of Communications, 360-725-6015


    Washington is America’s #1 state for business

    “With the nation’s fastest-growing economy and an all-star business roster of household names and up-and-comers, Washington — the Evergreen State — soars above the competition as America’s Top State for Business in 2017.”
    — Scott Cohn, CNBC

    Landing in the top spot may come as no surprise to those of who live, work and play in our beautiful state. We are fortunate to have a diversity of strong industry sectors where marquee companies arefounded and headquartered. Part of Commerce’s role is to facilitate growth of these industries and help small businesses across the state, and in the last four years we have reimagined and significantly stepped up those efforts. The record increases in transportation and education funding will also help ensure our long-term success.

    However, this honor also shines a spotlight on some challenges that need to be addressed. From an alarming shortage of affordable housing in many areas to public infrastructure in need of repair and expansion, we have work to do to ensure that rural and underserved communities see the benefits of our strong state economy.

    In a video interview with CNBC Top States reporter Scott Cohn, Gov. Inslee talks about the pillars of Washington’s economic strength: quality of life, innovation and talent – as well as the obstacles we must overcome to build on today’s success for future generations.

    Read Gov. Inslee’s commentary