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.

Place and partnership guide community engagement on top priorities

Regionalism is one of the top themes framing the work of Commerce’s team this year. Washington state is diverse in many ways, from our economy and environment to our history and culture.  Diversity is one of our state’s greatest strengths, and it also poses some big challenges. The unique attributes and aspirations of Washington’s cities, towns and Tribal nations vary greatly, requiring much more than a one-size-fits-all approach to our

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Lisa's first year travels

Director Lisa Brown’s first year at Commerce

It’s been a stimulating, enjoyable and action-packed first year for me with the passionate talented team of people at Commerce! I’ve learned much about this agency’s broad portfolio of programs that help strengthen communities across the state.

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Getting to know the many faces of homelessness

On Thursday night, January 23, I joined in the annual one-night Point-in-Time count of people living in homeless shelters, in cars, on the streets and other places not fit for human habitation. I was not prepared for how many people I saw in my hometown of Spokane, even though I visited only two places. The first person I interviewed that evening at Union Gospel Mission Spokane had the same birthday

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Column: A Regional and Sectoral Approach Creates a Strong Economy

Building strong communities is our mission at the Department of Commerce. We work for living-wage jobs, reliable infrastructure, affordable housing and innovation for a clean, healthy future. These attributes give Washington its unique sense of place and quality of life, and provide the framework for national and global competitiveness. Read my full column printed in a special section of The Columbian Jan. 19 below or click here to download the

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Looking ahead to 2020: Keeping our state strong and competitive

Rewarding. Challenging. Promising. These are just some of the words that come to mind as I reflect on this past year and look ahead to 2020. It has been my privilege to serve as Commerce director, visiting dozens of communities from Northport to Walla Walla to Grays Harbor, and representing our state in Europe and Asia. Through our diverse portfolio of more than 90 programs, Commerce’s outstanding team of professionals

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Success stories across the state teach lessons in creativity, collaboration

Spending time in different communities throughout the state and listening to the people who live there is an endless source of inspiration for me and members of the Commerce team. The passion, creativity and collaborative spirit of local leaders and residents teaches those of us doing the bulk of our work here, in the often insular world of Olympia, volumes about what it means to strengthen communities. As we begin

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Community visits validate strength in partnerships

Summertime is perfect for getting out on the road to check in with the many partners who help Commerce fulfill our mission of strengthening communities. I enjoy nothing more than learning directly from individuals and organizations across the state how we are doing and how we can do better at improving the lives of the people we serve. There are too many highlights to talk about in this brief update

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Regional economies, collaboration in the spotlight at WEDA

It’s always exciting to gather with leaders from local governments, tribes, Commerce’s associate development organizations (ADOs) and other community partners to share our wins, opportunities and new ideas at the Washington Economic Development Association Summer Conference. In addition to participating in two great days of listening, learning and networking, I also had the opportunity to speak to the group. I shared some positive results from the last season – beginning

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2017 Smart Community Award Winners

Governor’s Smart Communities Award winners announced

Innovative local and regional projects around the state are being honored with Gov. Inslee’s 2019 Smart Communities Awards. Now in its 14th year, the program recognizes achievements by local leaders who promote smart growth planning and projects that contribute to thriving communities, a prosperous economy, and sustainable infrastructure in Washington. This year’s honorees include the first winners in a new category focused on creative solutions to address affordable housing development.

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Lisa Brown and Ted Kealey

Director Brown talks broadband, high-speed trains with Idaho counterpart Ted Kealey

Lisa Brown and Idaho Department of Commerce Director Ted Kealey discussed a broad range of economic development topics at the Inland Northwest Partners annual conference in Pullman. Brown said one of the biggest issues facing rural communities is availability of broadband. Commerce is home to a state broadband office that will provide grants to local governments and tribes to help build out broadband infrastructure necessary for businesses, expanded educational opportunities

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Young hands holding dream of affordable home

Point-in-Time count shows net decrease in homelessness

Statewide results of the 2019 Point-in-Time (PIT) count of people experiencing homelessness in Washington showed a net decrease of about 3%, even though about half of Washington counties posted increases. The PIT count is an annual one-night census required of each state by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Commerce compiles, analyzes and reports on the data collected by each county in Washington. Read more.

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To HUD Secretary Carson: Withdraw proposed rule to separate immigrant families in public housing

In a letter to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson, Director Brown lodged serious concerns about HUD’s proposed rule to separate immigrant families in public housing. In her letter she writes, “The mission of the agency I lead is to strengthen communities. We do so by working closely with local governments, community action agencies, nonprofits and philanthropists, with a shared mission of improving housing affordability and reducing

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