We enter 2017 with a good deal of uncertainty about our nation and the world, but Washington’s economy is strong. Our GDP in the first quarter of 2016 grew three times faster than the national rate, and we’ve outpaced the nation as a whole for four years running, growing 8.1% compared to 6.5% from 2012-15.
While the outlook for 2017 is promising on many fronts, housing affordability threatens our continued success. Ironically, the state’s economic strengths pose perhaps our toughest challenges: addressing the crisis in affordable housing.
Strengthening communities is our call of duty at the Department of Commerce. We are the only agency in state government that touches every aspect of community and economic development. Here are the highlights of the Governor’s proposed 2017-19 biennial budget that support our top priorities of affordable housing and homelessness, resilient communities and underserved communities:
Strong communities are those with modern water, sewer and communications infrastructure; reliable, renewable energy systems; and other facilities capable of serving not only the needs but the aspirations of future generations. Commerce works to expand opportunities in rural and underserved communities.
Resilience is also about helping communities plan and adapt for the growing impacts of climate change, both economic and environmental, such as increased wildfires and floods, air and water quality damage and public health challenges from carbon pollution.
Building strong communities is essential to economic prosperity. Our name “Commerce” often makes people first think of us as championing business and economic development. We do that, but more important is the notion that a healthy, safe community is the foundation for economic prosperity. One can’t exist without the other.
Our Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness (OEDC) works on domestic and international business development, provides export assistance and other value-added services to small businesses, and partners with the private sector to develop and implement policy and strategies to develop key industry sectors.