The Washington Economic Development Association (WEDA) was formed in the fall of 2001 as an organization to serve economic development professionals in Washington. WEDA’s mission is to promote sound economic development policy and provide networking and training opportunities for its members. Our membership consists of members from economic development organizations, cities, counties, ports, tribes, businesses, education, and community-based organizations that prioritize economic development.
WEDA offers its members and others high-quality training and networking opportunities at its meetings throughout the year. WEDA holds two conferences each year. One during the legislative session and one during the summer. The legislative meeting, also referred to as our Winter Conference, includes a networking reception with legislators, economic development training, and policy-making sessions. The Summer Conferences provide opportunities to learn best practices, add tools to your economic development toolbox and network.
Before WEDA, the organization was known as The Washington Association of Economic Development Councils (WAEDC). This organization was formed in 1995 out of the need to have a group representing the views and issues of the Associate Development Organizations (ADO). ADOs are under contract with the state to provide economic development services in the communities that they represent.
At the time of formation, there were other associations that were involved in the economic development arena. One was the Economic Development Executives of Washington (EDEW). This group was comprised of company representatives and individuals whose primary function was in the area of economic development. At that time, many companies had employees working in the field of economic development. In addition to the EDCs and port districts, there were power companies, banks, major employers and educational institutions.
Another was The Partnership which was a group formed primarily in the Puget Sound area to market and promote the state. Their purpose was to encourage economic growth through lead generation.
Both groups were independent groups with separate boards and meetings. The two groups eventually merged in October 1989, into what was known as The Alliance. The purpose was to bring many of the same supporters together and ease the financial burden they had created by competing for the same economic dollar.
As the focus of the organization focused on policy, planning and research the name was changed to Forward Washington. During the early ‘90s there was an effort to unite the efforts of WAEDC and Forward Washington. While much time was spent on this effort, it never became reality. Forward Washington dissolved in 1995.
A lack of funding and a lack of cohesive direction (there was a large debate over devoting limited resources to lobbying for economic development issues versus using the resources for lead generation.) Over a period of time these factors caused the demise of The Alliance.
Over time many of the private sector companies who had tasked employees with economic development responsibilities were eliminating those departments and responsibilities.
Another player on the scene at the time was Team Washington. This was a state promoted initiative that rallied leaders in local communities to team up with state staffers in hosting clients when they visited the state and individual communities. Team Washington faded away due to a lack of prospect generation and a change of administration at the state level.
The one group to survive was the Washington Association of Economic Development Councils. This was a focused group made up of peers and united by a common bond, an Associated Development Organization contract. The WAEDC was set up with an executive committee comprised of representatives from six geographical areas of the state. The Chair alternated between East and West side.
After going through a planning retreat three standing committees were formed to address the issues of Professional Education, Legislative Issues and Priorities and ADO Contract Issues.
Since then, WAEDC decided to become an economic development professionals association, bringing into the organization others striving towards similar goals in economic development. So, in 2001 we became the Washington Economic Development Association, which is who we are today.