Two longshore-workers stand outside on a construction site at the Port of Tacoma, between steel rebar rods.
Image courtesy of Port of Tacoma

Washington is among the few states that consistently ranks as both a top state for business and for workers. Gov. Jay Inslee and his administration partner with community and industry leaders to recruit new companies to Washington, help existing companies grow, and ensure we have the ability to train workers and maintain our world-class workforce.

Key Sectors

Read more about these sectors on the state Department of Commerce website.

  • Aerospace: Washington’s aerospace sector is becoming increasingly diversified with more than 1,300 companies working in composites, unpiloted aerial systems, electric propulsion, clean fuels, commercial space exploration and more.
  • Agriculture and food manufacturing: Washington’s 15 million acres of farmland produce 300 crop commodities that are exported to markets all around the world. Washington’s food manufacturing industry is the state’s second-largest manufacturing industry after aerospace. The state is increasing its focus on agri-tech to monitor and manage crops to increase yields.
  • Forest products: Forestry is Washington’s oldest industry, and today is the third largest manufacturing industry in the state. There are more than 1,800 firms that directly employ more than 42,000 workers and support more than 102,000 jobs in Washington state. The development of new products such as cross-laminated timber and new ways to use products such as biomass is a focus for many industry leaders and researchers.
  • Clean technology: Washington’s clean tech companies are creating jobs in every part of the state, and the state has several policies to support research, development, and deployment of new technologies. Thanks to the nation’s most aggressive 100% clean electricity policy, the state is transitioning quickly to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.
  • Information and communication technology: Washington is home to several world-class ICT companies and a thriving entrepreneurial culture that spans gaming, quantum computing, blockchain, augmented/virtual reality, artificial intelligence and cloud computing. Washington’s ICT sector intersects with many of the state’s other crucial industries such as maritime, clean tech, life sciences and aerospace.
  • Life sciences: Washington’s biotech cluster is one of the largest in the United States with more than 1,150 firms and manufacturers, several renowned global health organizations, and world-leading, research institutions.
  • Maritime: Like aerospace and forestry, the maritime industry has multigenerational roots in Washington’s economy and communities. Washington’s maritime sector includes more than 2,300 companies who are leveraging the state’s world-class reputation in technology, advanced materials and clean energy to develop the next generation of vessels and watercraft.
  • Military and Defense: Washington has six active-duty military installations as well as a major homeland security installation, two Department of Energy facilities, and two world-class universities performing defense-related research within its borders. Washington is 6th in the nation in the number of active-duty military personnel.
  • Tourism: is the fourth largest industry in the state, employing more than 150,000 workers. Approximately 50 million people travel through the state’s largest international airport – Sea-Tac – connecting to cruise ships, outdoor recreation adventures, wine region tours and explorations of the diverse ecosystems the state offers, from rugged ocean beaches to ancient forests.

Key Successes

2023 Economy Key Successes

2022 Economy Key Successes

2021 Economy Key Successes

  • #1 state ranking by U.S. News & World Report as best state. It’s the third year the state has earned the top ranking. The report cites Washington’s broadband access and economic growth as top factors.
  • Progressive tax reforms including passage of a new capital gains tax and a Working Families Tax Credit to provide tax rebates to low-income families beginning in 2023.
  • Historic funding for broadband infrastructure and digital equity and inclusion efforts. The investments support the state’s efforts to provide universal high-speed broadband access by 2028.
  • COVID-19 relief efforts included SB 5061, which increased minimum unemployment benefits for workers and provided significant tax relief for businesses over five years, to support recovery from the economic impacts of COVID shutdowns. The legislation, which was requested by the governor, was a critical piece of the state’s COVID-19 recovery plan. It passed with strong bipartisan support. Inslee also signed HB 1368 which appropriated $2.2 billion in federal funding to help schools, child care provider, food banks, assistance for tenants and immigrants, and more.

2020 Economy Key Successes

  • Launch of new Washington State Broadband Office. The office coordinates efforts related to digital equity and building out broadband infrastructure so Washington can achieve its goal of universal high-speed broadband access by 2028.
  • Numerous programs and investments to help thousands of small businesses and nonprofits impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Assistance included multiple rounds of a Working Washington Small Business grant program, a new small business resiliency network to provide culturally- and linguistically-relevant business support, and a low-interest Flex Fund loan program.
  • #1 state ranking for working families during COVID-19 by Oxfam. Protections and support for workers impacted by COVID-19 included significant expansion of unemployment benefits, expanded legal protections for high-risk employees and frontline workers, a relief fund for immigrant workers who couldn’t qualify for federal programs, and a moratorium on evictions and utility shutoffs.

2019 Economy Key Successes

  • Keep Washington Working. The legislature passed a bill, supported by the governor and building on his 2017 executive order affirming the rights and contributions of immigrants in Washington state. The legislation establishes a statewide policy supporting immigrants’ role in the economy and makes clear that state agency and local law enforcement resources will not be commandeered for purposes of federal immigration enforcement.
  • Best state rankings. U.S. News & World Report ranked Washington the best state in the country in May 2019. The publication evaluated all 50 states across a range of criteria, including education, health care, infrastructure and the economy. The report emphasized Washington’s thriving technology sector as well as the state’s aggressive efforts to promote clean, affordable energy. Washington also appears regularly at the top of favorable rankings from other organizations, especially those related to economic opportunity. Last year, CNBC named Washington the Top State for Business, WalletHub listed Washington as the state with the best economy, and Oxfam, an organization that aims to end poverty, also gave high marks to Washington state for being the best state for workers.
  • Statewide broadband. After a statewide tour last year, Gov. Inslee proposed a bill to provide broadband internet service to communities throughout Washington. The bill, passed by the legislature, creates a new Statewide Broadband Office to serve as the central planning and coordinating body for public and private efforts to ensure broadband is available in every community. Affordable and quality broadband is crucial to support businesses and jobs and provide education and health care opportunities for people throughout the state.
  • Career Connect Washington. Legislators provided funds for the next steps of Inslee’s Career Connect Washington initiative. Career-connected learning gives students more pathways to good-paying careers through a statewide system for apprenticeship, internship and mentorship learning. Inslee set a goal to connect 100,000 Washington students with career-connect learning opportunities by 2027. The legislature funded these investments with a targeted surcharge agreed to by business leaders. These business leaders depend on the state’s colleges and universities to train and educate students for careers.

2018 Economy Key Successes

  • State-wide broadband access. In 2018, there was progress on broadband throughout the state that will help create jobs, improve public safety, increase education opportunities and support good access to healthcare options. The governor:
    • Helped secure $10M in community economic revitalization funds for rural broadband deployment.
    • Secured another $800K for broadband in LaPush, a remote and underserved part of the Quileute Nation that is vulnerable to seismic and tsunami hazards.
    • HB 2664 allows more ports to supply wholesale broadband service.
    • SB 6034 allows Kitsap PUD to provide retail broadband service to its customers, particularly in Suquamish, Poulsbo, Hansville and Stavis Bay.
  • Equal pay. Under the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, signed by the governor in March 2018, employees are legally required to receive equal pay and career advancement opportunities, regardless of gender. The new regulations update Washington’s equal pay law, which was established in 1943.
  • Grant funding. Job shadowing, internships and apprenticeships are just a few of the career connections that are available to 29,000 students thanks to $6.4 million in new Career Connect Washington grant funding. Opportunities include STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning experiences, job shadows at local employers, career planning, and over 4,800 new internships, pre-apprenticeships and registered apprenticeships.

2016 Economy Key Successes

  • Economic Gardening is a new initiative from the state Department of Commerce that helps local companies grow and succeed across the state that supports growth companies. The program was created when the governor signed SB 6100.

2015 Economy Key Successes

  • Transportation investment package. Gov. Inslee brokered a 16-year, $16 billion “Connecting Washington” transportation investment package that will create ~200,000 jobs and includes:
    • Road and safety projects around the state including megaprojects like SR 520 bridge, the North Spokane Corridor, SR 167/SR 509 Gateway Project, and widening of I-5 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord
    • Highway maintenance and preservation
    • Non-highway projects like bike paths, rail and transit
    • Funding for ferries including a fourth Olympic Class Ferry Vessel
    • Authorization for Sound Transit to seek voter-approval for $15 billion to extend light rail to Everett, Tacoma and Redmond
    • Investments related to fish barrier removal, bridge preservation, freight rail improvements, electric vehicle and alternative fuel tax credits and commute trip reduction programs
  • Diversity in business. Gov. Inslee convened a new subcabinet focused on increasing access for small and minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses to contracting opportunities with Washington state government.
  • Strategic planning for military downsizing. In June 2015, Gov. Inslee formed a Subcabinet on Military Downsizing to address possible reductions in military force in the state. The Subcabinet will create a coordinated strategic plan to respond to and mitigate potential military reduction impacts on local communities in Washington.
  • Tax incentives.
    • Food processors play a vital role in converting Washington raw materials into finished goods that feed our state and beyond. By extending tax incentives for food processors, we support rural areas and keep manufacturing jobs in Washington (SB 6057).
    • Data center tax incentives promote rural economic development, create jobs in rural areas and generate tax revenues for local and state government (SB 6057).

2014 Economy Key Successes

  • Economic development. Gov. Inslee reconvened the Washington Military Alliance to strengthen Washington’s $15.7 billion military sector and plan for Department of Defense reductions. The alliance is a diverse group of more than 20 military and economic development leaders representing industry, infrastructure, veteran, workforce and economic development interests across the state.
  • Better business.
    • Gov. Inslee worked with business partners to develop the nation’s first Regulatory Red Tape Index to promote better customer service to businesses.
    • Gov. Inslee and the Department of Commerce partnered with local government and industry to launch the Restaurant Success website, which streamlines the process of opening a restaurant in Seattle. The governor and Commerce are now working with other local jurisdictions to launch similar efforts statewide.
  • Job growth. To help thousands of long-term unemployed workers find work, Washington secured more than $10 million dollars through the federal Rapid Response program.

2013 Economy Key Successes

  • Economic development.
    • Gov. Inslee created an Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness to work directly with industry leaders on recruiting new companies to Washington and growing key industries.
    • Gov. Inslee helped secure thousands of aerospace jobs by winning the 777X. Boeing is now building its 1.4 million square foot expansion of the Everett plant. Dozens of companies from around the world are considering expanding here and locating new facilities in our state to be a part of the Washington aerospace industry.
    • To improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities in state employment, Gov. Inslee established the Disability Task Force.
  • Resource management. Gov. Inslee’s Yakima Basin jobs, water and fish bill (SB 5367) works with agencies and local partners to manage water in the Yakima River Basin. Droughts and water shortages have harsh impacts on salmon, crops and homes in the region. The bill enhances stream flows for salmon, provides farmers with water, buys land for habitat restoration and public recreation and secures future water supplies. The legislation also created the Teanaway Community Forest Trust to ensure protection and public access to forest lands in the state.
  • STEM education. Gov. Inslee’s House Bill 1872 convened a new STEM alliance to expand STEM opportunities in our K-12 system and develop a system for measuring how well the state and our partners are preparing students for STEM-related opportunities after high school.

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