Submitted by Nina Carduner
Rogers Weed gave the closing keynote for the first day of the Global Washington Conference. As the director of the Washington State Department of Commerce, he summarized the current status of Washington’s economy as well as the increasing importance of global development for growing and improving the state of jobs in Washington.
After losing 3 million jobs in a period of 6-9 months, Washington has been hard hit by the recession. While the state is now gaining in employment, it is doing so very slowly. In Washington, the highest unemployment rates exist in the NE and SW counties of the state. The governor has been forced to make deep budget cuts and the state budget is in crisis. A big chunk of this budget is protected by the state constitution, which is focused on K-12 education and this limits flexibility. Unfortunately, the latest election results have squashed efforts to create opportunities for new revenues with sale taxes.
Weed did offer some good news for the state. Global trends including prevalence of software, the clean energy transition, and also the increasing influence of Asia are set to disproportionately benefit Washington. Thanks to the abundance of international non-profits and the general growth of development organizations in the state of Washington, Weed explained the development sector will enable Washington to achieve its goals of increasing international exports, study abroad programs, and building a broader international agenda. Meeting these goals, Weed stressed, will be essential for improving and growing jobs for the state and improving our local economy.