Business Retention and Expansion

through Direct Outreach

Seattle is an extraordinary city in which to do business, and the Seattle Office of

Economic Development

(OED) is focused on creating a robust economy with broadly shared prosperity. OED helps to create a vibrant economy which benefits the whole city by promoting access to economic opportunities for all of Seattle's diverse communities. We provide services directly to businesses through advocacy, retention and expansion assistance, and

workforce development

. OED makes it easy for businesses to navigate the regulatory terrain and quickly access business services offered by local, state and federal governmental agencies. The office has a team of talented practitioners that are knowledgeable, responsive, and reliable in meeting the needs of Seattle businesses.

Economic development

research shows that retaining and growing early-stage and existing businesses is the most effective way of supporting entrepreneurs and economic growth. To achieve our goal of growing Seattle-based companies, OED prioritizes direct support to individual companies to help them access capital, expand into new markets, and navigate government. Our program is focused on businesses with 5 - 100 employees and $1 million - $10 million in revenues, because companies of this size are the most likely to have the capacity for expansion and would most benefit from the kinds of services that OED can offer.


Business Retention and Expansion

Program (BREP) focuses on the competitive industry sectors that comprise Seattle’s economic base, establishing relationships with local businesses to gain knowledge of their priorities, needs and challenges, and providing direct services to businesses to help them grow and prosper. The program targets meeting with 500 businesses annually, and providing 250 businesses with follow-up business services, including connecting them with opportunities to expand their markets, advice and referrals on financial and management challenges, navigating the regulatory environment, and assistance with site location. Our business services portal,, has information for business owners whether they are looking to START, GROW, or GREEN their business. Targeted sectors include: Manufacturing, Logistics, Maritime, and Shipbuilding, Clean Technology/Energy and Life Sciences/Global Health, Retail, Professional Services, and Information Technology.

Through a competitive process, OED selected partners with expertise and relationships in these target sectors. OED works with our partners to focus on outcomes that support our broader mission and goals, track our progress using consistent metrics, and communicate company information using a common database system, Executive Pulse.

OED’s collaborative approach with affiliate economic organizations, industry organization and local chambers of commerce expands the reach of our program, and leverages the expertise of our partners with different facets of the economy. Over the six years of the program, OED has streamlined the interviews with companies and the use of the Executive Pulse database to focus on solving the business needs of the companies, and less on the collection of in-depth basic data about each company. The majority of time that program partners spend using the database is to generate action items and referrals to solve business issues for the companies.

The BREP works in the larger context of our Office of

Economic Development

, and works with other OED staff to raise policy issues that are affecting numerous businesses. OED coordinates a Citywide Business Advocacy Team that troubleshoots issues across City Departments. One example of an issue that was raised through OED and resulting in broader policy reform and improvement of services to businesses is a new Restaurant process reform effort to improve the process for opening a restaurant in Seattle. The BREP also can refer businesses for some free technical assistance through a contracted consultant, in addition to referring to other organizations for resources.

Since the program’s inception six years ago, our team has visited over 2,220 companies. 65% of the visits resulted in some sort of action - connecting a business with resources or assisting them to navigate government. Of those items, 83% were successfully resolved. The program has 3.0 FTE dedicated to this work in our office, in addition to leveraging additional office staff expertise, and invests $300,000 in contracts with our industry sector partners for additional services.

Doolie’s Hot Sauce

Born in Somalia and a West Seattle High School graduate, Abdul “Doolie” Mohamud found his way into the hearts and kitchens of Seattle with Doolie’s Hot Sauce. Based on his grandmother’s recipe, this versatile sauce includes a blend of coconut, chili peppers and lemon. After recognizing that the most successful part of a failed restaurant venture was the hot sauce he had created, Doolie launched it in 2012 as a business of its own. With no formal business training, Doolie sought the support of entrepreneurial training and coaching from Washington C.A.S.H., an Office of

Economic Development

partner, to help him grow his business. Since then, the company has added six wholesale accounts, including Metropolitan Market, West Seattle Thriftway, and West Seattle Produce Company.

“It’s amazing how much my business has grown in a short time. When I started, West Seattle Produce Company was the only location selling Doolie’s Hot Sauce, and now I am selling in 22 locations. The staff at Washington C.A.S.H. are like team members, there to give me feedback and help, and they are rooting for my success. I am excited to keep growing my business and continuing to explore new opportunities, like participating in the Bite of Seattle this year.” Abdul “Doolie” Mohamud, Founder and Owner, Doolie’s Hot Sauce

Lanier’s Fine Candies

The Office of

Economic Development

visited Lanier’s Fine Candies, a local minority-owned manufacturer of fine candies, and realized the business needed help to grow. OED arranged for the company’s owner to receive business planning assistance, as well as provided connections to several local retailers to introduce their products. As a result, the company is selling products in several new outlets such as Fireworks Gallery, The Chocolate Box, and Ventures, and is purchasing new equipment to increase production capacity. The business is looking to move into a new manufacturing facility within the next two years and hire more employees to assist with production.