Lisa Brown, Commerce DirectorLisa J. Brown, Ph.D., was appointed Commerce director by Gov. Inslee and began serving the agency in February of 2019.
Prior to serving as Commerce director, she served as chancellor of Washington State University, where she led the health science campus in Spokane.
Lisa served in the Washington State Legislature from 1996 – 2013 in the Senate where she was majority leader and chaired the Rules Committee, Ways and Means Committee, and Energy, Technology and Telecommunications Committee. She served in the state House of Representatives from 1993 – 1996, where she was minority whip and minority floor leader.
She has worked extensively on economic development in Eastern Washington and on gender equity.
Prior to state office, she was an associate professor of economics at Eastern Washington University and an associate professor of leadership at Gonzaga University.
Lisa earned her bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of Illinois and her master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from the University of Colorado in Boulder.

First impressions, crucial conversations

By Lisa Brown, Director It’s hard to believe that a month has passed since I accepted Gov. Inslee’s appointment to lead the Department of Commerce. I knew this was going to be an exciting opportunity for me to apply my experience in government, health science and economics to advance the agency’s mission of strengthening communities all over the state. If these first weeks are any indication, I’m in for a

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Tech innovation happening everywhere

Acting Commerce Director Connie Robins joined Governor Inslee’s ICT sector lead Dr. Joseph Williams in Mount Vernon, Skagit County last week for a briefing on a world-leading program at PACCAR to build the coming generation of autonomous trucks. “There’s a lot of amazing tech innovation happening all over the state,” said Williams. Technology and cloud computing are transforming every industry sector from aerospace and agriculture to medicine and maritime. Learn

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We cannot rest on our laurels

While it’s gratifying to reflect on the strides we make each year, all of our accomplishments and our future successes rely on leaders setting a positive, productive and collaborative tone for the entire state. Unlike the negativity and gridlock plaguing the Other Washington, I am heartened by the way in which individuals and organizations here are able to set aside petty differences for the greater good. It’s inspiring to be

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Striving for equity and inclusion

A couple of years into my service in this position, we formed the Minority Business Roundtable, made up of business leaders representing different ethnic and minority communities in Washington. This group has been helpful in creating ideas that help us promote inclusivity, beginning with good data. For example, our ADO’s responsible for local economic development are now required to track the number of minority and women-owned businesses they assist. Similarly,

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Energy innovation is happening all around us

Old ideas don’t help us solve new problems. We reorganized the State Energy Office to adapt to the changing landscape of the clean energy economy. Our Energy Office is constantly analyzing data, technology, and research projects to help us make informed decisions. More than just thought leaders, we’re leading work happening now, all over the state and the Pacific Coast region, to build the low-carbon future. Since January 2013, we

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Strengthening Communities by Building Infrastructure

As a trusted partner with stakeholders and other state agencies, Commerce has taken on and launched new capital programs including Early Learning Facilities, Behavioral Health Facilities and Rural Broadband.  We’ve managed the Public Works Trust Fund through rocky times, coming through with successful legislation that provides a broader perspective on funding opportunities and coordination with sister infrastructure agencies.  Since January 2013, we have invested over $1.5 billion for capital projects

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Strengthening Communities Through Community Service

Commerce formed and stood up the Statewide Re-Entry Council to help men and women successfully reenter our communities and workforce following incarceration.  The council has already notched legislative successes by assisting in passage of fair chance housing and income discrimination laws. In response to federal funding, we dramatically expanded the state’s crime victims advocacy work.  The Office of Crime Victims Advocacy took advantage of a 400 percent increase in federal

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Strengthening Communities by Building Resilient Communities

I believe that Gov. Inslee’s declaration – just weeks into taking office – that the state budget would no longer be balanced on the back of social services, is the single the most important step in helping Washingtonians who are experiencing homelessness. As homelessness and housing affordability overtook job creation as the most pressing needs facing our communities, Commerce worked hard to address these challenges. We moved new and existing

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Strengthening Communities by Growing the Economy and Promoting Washington

When Gov. Inslee took office, we were still wondering whether we had hit the bottom to the Great Recession, so job creation was job one.  From January 2013 until today: Washington ranked #1 for personal income growth #1 Fastest growing economy (GDP) Over 500,000 net new jobs created in the state Our work began with rebuilding the state economic development system by reestablishing trust with counties, cities and our associate

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Parting thoughts on six amazing years at Commerce

Last week I announced my plans to step down as director of the Department of Commerce on January 15, 2019. It has been my honor to serve on Governor Inslee’s cabinet and to lead an amazing agency filled with passionate public servants dedicated to serving Washington’s communities. As I shared with the governor and my colleagues, I have very mixed emotions about departing Commerce. I am proud of our agency’s

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Washington Commerce Director Bonlender announces planned departure

Bonlender’s tenure includes rebuilding state’s economic development apparatus, launching new ways to fight homelessness, establishing new capital programs in energy, mental health and early learning. Olympia, WA – Brian Bonlender today announced his planned departure as director of the Washington Department of Commerce. He has been in the position since Feb. 1, 2013, and his last day with Commerce will be Jan. 15, 2019. Bonlender, 48, said that while the

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Delivering energy savings and health benefits to low-income communities

Commerce’s Low-Income Weatherization Assistance program has helped struggling families around the state for 39 years. As available funding continues to lag the significant need for help in keeping housing for low-income Washingtonians affordable, energy efficient and healthy, we’re experimenting with new ways to attack the most pressing problems. One vexing problem is a “catch-22” issue: many low-income houses, particularly in rural areas, are not eligible for some existing weatherization assistance

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