Walla Walla Community College received two grants from the Washington State Department of Commerce, one in 2006 and one in 2011, to study the economic impact of the Walla Walla wine industry on the regional economy. The 2006 study, “Walla Walla Valley Wine Cluster-Based Approach to Economic Development” focused on the evolution of Walla Walla Valley’s agricultural-based economy from that based primarily on wheat farming to an economy transformed by a burgeoning wine industry and an attendant wine-tourism sector. That study examined the evolution of the Walla Walla regional economy from 1977 through 2006, measured the economic impact of the wine cluster, and projected its growth over the next 10 years. “A Study of the Walla Walla Regional Wine Cluster as a Basis for Development of an Economic Development Plan for the Walla Walla Innovation Partnership Zone” was conducted in 2011 to document the growth and change of the wine cluster and the Walla Walla economy since 2006, and make projections to 2020.
The core of the wine industry cluster includes wineries, vineyards, local suppliers and services, and a subset of the hospitality sector that is oriented toward wine tourism (hotels, restaurants, specialized retail, and the arts) in Walla Walla County, Columbia County, and northern Umatilla County, OR. Both studies demonstrate the interdependencies between wine production and wine tourism and their impact on the Walla Walla regional economy regarding jobs, income, and the diversification of the region’s economic base.
An underlying objective of these projects is to provide research results that inform decision making for the purpose of workforce and economic development planning for the Walla Walla IPZ. The IPZ is a Washington State Department of Commerce designation that provides economic regions with a strategic framework for economic development coordination and planning. The WWIPZ Partnership Team consists of representatives from key organizations in the public and private sector. The Team engaged in a participatory planning process that identified strategic initiatives intended to foster the creation of family-wage jobs and promote environmental and cultural sustainability in the Walla Walla region. Walla Walla received IPZ designation in 2008 and was re-designated in October 2011 for another five years.