Inclusion as a Guiding Principal

Inclusive Economies

Inclusive economies recognize the value of diverse perspectives and experiences in driving innovation and growth. By embracing diversity in the workforce and supporting minority-owned businesses, inclusive economies promote economic vitality and resilience, which benefit the entire community. When people have the opportunity to succeed regardless of their starting point, it leads to more vibrant and inclusive communities where everyone can contribute and benefit.

Our mission

Advancing a Regenerative Local Economy

At Sustainable Connections, we are dedicated to advancing a regenerative local economy that builds community, strengthens food systems, catalyzes climate solutions, and expands access to housing in NW Washington.

What is an Inclusive Economy?

Our Commitment to Inclusivity

We believe that fostering an inclusive economy is pivotal to our community, and relies on collaboration across multiple sectors, including government, business, non-profits, and community members. The following organizations and resources are designed to empower business members and entrepreneurs of Whatcom County, ensuring equal opportunities for growth and development. Additional community organizations are also noted below.

Sustainable Connections’ Inclusive Economy Scholarships are one of many programs that offer a step towards a more equitable community where everyone can thrive. Learn more about our Inclusive Economy Scholarship for businesses and our Local Business Directory.

Business Resources

Whatcom County

Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship

The Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship helps people with limited resources in marginalized rural communities start a business, earn a living, build generational wealth, and lead the development of rural places where everyone and everything can thrive forever.

Northwest Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

The Northwest Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was established in 2007 with the purpose of advancing the economic, industrial professional, cultural, agricultural, educational and civic welfare of the Northwest Washington and surrounding communities.

Port of Bellingham Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Programs

The Port of Bellingham and the Bellingham International Airport are dedicated to providing an environment that is welcoming to small businesses, including Disadvantaged Business Enterprises.

Small Business Development Center at WWU

We work with local small business owners and entrepreneurs to discover opportunities, overcome roadblocks, improve operations, scale-up, and steward successful business transitions. Nuestros servicios de asesoría empresarial son gratuitos y confidenciales. Cuando se registre, podrá reunirse normalmente con un asesor comercial certificado en el transcurso de 1 a 3 días hábiles.

Sustainable Connections Inclusive Economy Scholarships

We recognize a history of inequity and seek to support the development of an inclusive economy that serves and represents everyone in our community. Scholarships are available to local business owners who identify with underrepresented racial, sexual, ethnic, religious, gender, disability, age, origin, ancestry, or veteran statuses. Businesses located in rural areas are also encouraged to apply.

United Professionals of Color

Based in Bellingham, WA, The mission of the United Professionals of Color is to provide collaborative spaces to connect, share, support, and advance professional development, social enrichment, as well as economic capital.

Wandke Accessibilitiy

Wandke Accessibility is primed to empower businesses and organizations that are ready to incorporate access and inclusion of disabled people into their best practices. We are a company owned and led by disabled people who not only understand what the disability community needs to prosper but what businesses and organizations need to do and the beliefs they need to embody in order to become allies in providing equitable opportunities for disabled people to thrive.  

Seattle and Washington State

Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology Center (DO-IT)

Dedicated to empowering people with disabilities through technology and education. It promotes awareness and accessibility—in both the classroom and the workplace—to maximize the potential of individuals with disabilities and make our communities more vibrant, diverse, and inclusive. DO-IT is based at the University of Washington, Seattle, but efforts are global.

Greater Seattle Business Aliance

GSBA is Washington State’s LGBTQ+ and allied chamber of commerce, and the largest in North America. We represent small business, corporate, and nonprofit members who share the values of promoting equality and diversity in the workplace. GSBA proudly serves as a connector across the state, bringing the community together through business including complimentary business consulting and class, while advocating for civil rights and small business in Olympia, promoting LGBTQ+ tourism through Travel Out, and investing in the next generation of leaders through The GSBA Scholarship & Education Fund.


Based in Seattle, Intentionalist is an online guide to intentional spending that supports small businesses and diverse local communities. We make it easy for you to find local restaurants, bars, gyms, shops, and more owned by women, people of color, veterans, LGBTQ, families, and disabled people. Beyond serving as a directory, Intentionalist supports community connection through business profiles based on interviews with local business owners and meet-ups that provide the opportunity to meet them and learn about the stories behind their businesses.

Minority BusinessDevelopment Agency Business Center – WA

The U.S Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is the only Federal Government agency solely dedicated to the support of minority businesses enterprise. MBDA was originally established as the Office of Minority Business Enterprise by President Richard M. Nixon on March 5, 1969. Operated since September 2016 by City of Tacoma, Washington MBDA Business Center is one of 35+ centers nationwide.  We provide technical assistance and strategic business consulting to established minority-owned businesses in Washington State.

Office of Minority & Women’s Business Enterprises – WA

The Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises leads the Statewide M/WBE program as the sole agency that certifies minority- and women-owned business enterprises to participate in public contracting and procurement. This program includes a comprehensive certification process, small business support services, and the Supplier Diversity team that works with the Governor’s Subcabinet on Business Diversity, state agencies, and institutions of higher education to instill equitable and inclusive purchasing practices. These efforts help small businesses owned by minorities, women, and veterans to obtain more government contracts which strengthens our communities, makes our economy more resilient, and improves the quality of life for all Washingtonians.

Small Business Resiliency Network

Partners of the Small Business Resiliency Network (SBRN) provide culturally and linguistically relevant assistance and other business support services at no cost to entrepreneurs, small businesses and nonprofits – with an emphasis on those owned by historically marginalized and underserved persons – throughout Washington.

USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant program

The Rural Cooperative Development Grant program improves the economic condition of rural areas by helping individuals and businesses start, expand or improve rural cooperatives and other mutually-owned businesses through Cooperative Development Centers. Grants are awarded through a national competition.

WA State LGBTQ Commission and Rainbow Alliance & Inclusion Network (RAIN)

RAIN (Rainbow Alliance and Inclusion Network) is the LGBTQ+ Business Resource Group for Washington state employees. We are sponsored by the Washington LGBTQ+ Commission and Washington Office of Financial Management. RAIN is committed to diversity and inclusion efforts that allow state employees to bring their full authentic selves to work in order to do their best work on behalf of Washingtonians.

WA State Dept of Commerce Rural Community Assistance

Place matters in economic development. Vibrant communities – places where people want to live, work and play – are crucial to grow, attract and retain business activity and jobs. Our teams work closely with local leaders to provide economic development technical assistance, promote small business and entrepreneurship and improve the economic climate including the Rural Small Business Initiative and Growing Rural Entrepreneurs.

WA State Dept of Social & Health Services Division of Vocational Rehabilitation

The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) is a statewide resource that assists people with disabilities to prepare for, secure, maintain, advance in, or regain employment. DVR partners with businesses and organizations to develop employment opportunities. We serve people who seek meaningful and secure employment, but whose disabilities may result in one or more barriers to achieving employment goals.

Community Resources in Whatcom County

Businesses and community organizations thrive together when they form strong partnerships. By collaborating with community organizations, businesses can create a welcoming, inclusive environment for customers and employees. There are also opportunities to sponsor or attend cultural events and engage with a variety of communities that offer diverse perspectives. By working together, we can all help build vibrant, equitable, and prosperous communities. Visit our community events calendar for more information on community events from these organizations and more. 

Let's Connect

We would love to hear from you!

We are always eager to hear from others! If you have any questions, suggestions, or if you notice any resources we’ve missed on our website, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We are committed to making Whatcom County a more inclusive community and are open to collaborating and forming new relationships. Your feedback and partnership are invaluable to us as we strive to create a welcoming environment for everyone. Please contact Amy Vergillo (, 360-647-7093 x105).