Commerce taps Ernie Rasmussen for tribal liaison position

Economic development planner for The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Nation will coordinate Department of Commerce work with tribal governments statewide

Commerce tribal liaison

Ernie Rasmussen

OLYMPIA, WA – The Washington State Department of Commerce announced that Ernie Rasmussen of Okanogan, Wash. will coordinate the agency’s work with the state’s tribal governments and communities. Rasmussen is currently senior planner of economic development with The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation where he has played a key role in establishing the North Star Opportunity Zone, a regional collaboration among the Colville Tribes, Chelan, Douglas, Ferry and Okanogan counties.

Rasmussen’s prior experience includes coordinating National Science Foundation-supported STEM curriculum to serve grades 4-6 on the Spokane Indian Reservation and Coeur d’Alene Reservation. He also served as executive director and network coordinator of the Empire Health Foundation-funded Spokane Tribal Network, working with the Spokane Tribe of Indians, Wellpinit School District and community leaders to initiate systemic positive health outcomes for all community membership.  He earned a bachelor’s degree and is a Master of Arts candidate in urban and regional planning, both from Eastern Washington university.

“Ernie’s background and passion for community empowerment is the ideal blend we’ve been seeking for this full-time leadership role to help develop and enrich relationships between our agency and Washington’s sovereign tribal nations,” said Dr. Lisa Brown, Commerce director. “We all look forward to more fully integrating tribal voices in our work on priorities for strengthening rural communities, such as expanding broadband access, promoting sustainable community development through Opportunity Zones, and investing in infrastructure.”

The Department of Commerce, which has a mission of strengthening communities, is home to over 96 programs providing funding and support for a wide range of essential community and economic development activities, from affordable housing, homelessness, infrastructure and facilities to business recruitment and retention, international trade missions and small business assistance. Commerce works with numerous public and private sector partners, including tribal governments.

“I applaud this appointment of Ernie Rasmussen as Tribal Liaison.  His experience and knowledge of community development within Tribal communities will help strengthen state-tribal relations in this and other important issue areas,”  said Craig Bill, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs.

“Born, raised and having spent the entirety of my life serving Indian Country has been central to my identity.  I’m fortunate to continue this pursuit on the regional and state level, playing a role in serving individual communities and their citizens to enhance the places they call home. Listening, learning and connecting people and resources is critical to empowering communities to achieve sovereignty.  I look forward to assisting Tribes, Communities and Commerce staff in these achievements.”

Rasmussen joins Commerce as tribal liaison on Nov. 1, and he will be based out of Okanogan.


Penny Thomas, Commerce Communications, 206-256-6106

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