The Role of an ADO

By Drew Repp, Business Growth Director

Creating Long-Term Sustainable Economic Growth

Often when explaining the work we do, a staff member may say, “We’re the ADO for Spokane County.” This explanation is often met with the logical follow-up question: “What’s an ADO?”

Associate Development Organizations (ADOs) are the principal contact for the Washington State Department of Commerce (Commerce) and all county economic development elements. Each county in the state designates an organization as their ADO to partner with Commerce and serve as the lead on local economic development activities in their county.  Commerce maintains a contracted partnership with 35 ADOs, serving 39 counties, through both technical assistance and funding for local economic development activities.

The origins of ADOs date back to Governor Booth Gardner’s Team Washington strategy that was initiated in 1985 to develop a public-private, state-local partnership across the state.

The broad role of an ADO is that of advocacy and leadership, serving as the point of contact for local economic activities, recruiting/hosting new businesses, and coordinating business retention and expansion efforts within its service area.  ADOs also help Commerce gather data about community profiles, industrial sites, plans for business development and retention, reports on business activity, and proposals for other economic activities in their service areas.

Put another way, The ADO works closely with Commerce to develop and carry out strategies that show potential for long-term sustainable growth.

The County’s Board of Commissioners formally designates an organization to serve as its ADO. Revised Code of Washington (RCW) requires that organization to “Be broadly representative of community and economic interests.” The County provides Commerce with a signed statement of designation along with a certification of eligibility. Then, through a contracted partnership, Commerce determines the scope of services delivered under the ADO grant/contract in collaboration with the ADO.

While the work of each ADO is a little different, some of the services GSI is contracted to perform include:

  • Marketing local areas as excellent locations to expand or relocate a business – This is done through tools like and Additionally, GSI outreaches to 5,400 site selectors and businesses each year.
  • Providing business retention and expansion services – Each year GSI has a goal to meet with 300 local businesses. Through such meetings and relationships built over many years, even decades, GSI identifies assistance opportunities with local businesses. Our relationship with Precision Cutting Technologies is what led to helping them secure a Commerce grant for their expansion in Spokane County.
  • Participate in system-wide discussions regarding gaps in business start-up assistance – Helping fill these gaps is why StartUp Spokane exists and its co-working space is the physical location for entrepreneurs to connect.



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