12/11/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/11/2023 16:51
Two Commerce alums rejoin agency to lead state economic development for key industry sectors
OLYMPIA, WA - Washington Department of Commerce Director Mike Fong welcomes back two former agency executives to lead key industry sector economic development: Julie Anderson rejoined the department in November as Agricultural Innovation Sector Lead, and Dr. Joseph Williams came back on board this month as Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Sector Lead. Both are based in the department's Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness in Seattle.
Julie Anderson returns to Commerce after a local government career in the City of Tacoma and Pierce County, where she was the elected county auditor for 13 years. Prior to that, she served Commerce (then the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development) as a senior policy advisor, focused on Washington's green economy job initiative, industry cluster development, and Innovation Partnership Zones. She also served on the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB), providing low-interest loans and grants for public infrastructure to promote private business growth. With over 20 years of executive experience in government and nonprofit sectors, Anderson is known for active community engagement and the ability to build enduring stakeholder relationships. Her volunteer work includes the UW-Tacoma Center for Leadership and Social Responsibility, the American Leadership Forum, and Rotary International.
"Julie's passion for our working forests, preserving family farms, sustainability technology and supporting Washington's rural communities is an ideal fit for this role, and we're delighted to have her on the team," said Commerce Director Mike Fong.
Anderson is focused on recruitment, retention, and expansion of Washington's agricultural technology (agtech) and forest and cannabis products industries, including rural development, regenerative practices and industrial symbiosis, with a special focus on AI and robotics and precision farming techniques.
"Commerce's mission of strengthening communities is one I very much identify with. I sought this work because of my affinity for rural communities and Washington's natural resources," Anderson said. "Both are vulnerable to climate change, as well as essential to bending the carbon curve. Forest and agriculture provide essential, healthy goods to all Washingtonians, produce our state's most valuable exports, and offer significant potential for greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reductions and biological/embodied carbon sequestration."
Dr. Joseph Williams
Dr. Joseph Williams will again lead ICT sector development at Commerce after serving as the Seattle Director of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory from 2019 to 2022. He held the ICT Sector Lead role from 2016 to 2019, during which time the state experienced unprecedented economic growth in its world-renowned tech sector. The sector accounts for over 9% of the state's workforce and nearly 22% of the state's economy - the highest rate in the nation.
Dr. Williams most recently was the global lead partner for the cybersecurity practice at Infosys Consulting, and he is currently a visiting fellow at the National Security Institute. During his previous tenure at Commerce, he was appointed as an assembly program fellow at Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, where he worked with others on developing an AI ethics framework. A former executive at Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, Dr. Williams also served as the Dean of the School of Business, Government, and Economics at Seattle Pacific University.
"We are delighted to have Joseph back on board and put his deep knowledge, expertise and relationships to work developing new partnerships and avenues to secure historic federal funding opportunities that will benefit communities throughout the state," Fong said.
Dr. Williams will lead Commerce's work with the industry, stakeholders and partners to deepen Washington's status as a world leader in quantum computing, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence, and will report to the Legislature on 2022's Blockchain Work Group bill (SB5544).
His immediate focus includes Commerce's work to help the state secure federal funding made possible by the $280-billion CHIPS and Science Act passed in 2022. To date, Commerce provided strategic guidance to the American Aerospace Manufacturing Center's successful proposal, which won designation as one of the U.S. Economic Development Administration's first Regional Tech Hubs and will compete for $50-$70 million in funding. The team also supported the Washington state-designated consortia INTENT led by AVISTA in its winning bid for designation as a National Science Foundation Regional Innovation Engine, putting them in competition for up to $160 million over 10 years. Additionally, Commerce is supporting project proposals by the Clallam County Economic Development Council and Mason County EDC and Greater Grays Harbor in partnership with Pacific County to earn millions in strategy development grants through the EDA Distressed Area Recompete Pilot Program, aimed at creating good jobs in rural and economically distressed communities.
"I am excited to work with the state's tech leaders on continuing Washington's amazing run as an important tech hub in the digital economy," Williams said. "Now more than ever, Washington needs to develop the workforce and to encourage more investment capital to keep ensure we extend our global leadership in technology."
Washington state's key industries are engines of economic growth. Commerce focuses on supporting innovation and developing strategic public-private partnerships in these sectors locally, regionally and globally to create new business opportunities and jobs that strengthen communities throughout the state. Visit the Commerce website to learn more about the Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness and the industry sector leads.