Washington state is a hub of global business, sending $64 billion in products to overseas markets in 2011. Among the exports was everything from transportation equipment and food to chemicals and petroleum products.
Located equidistant between Europe and Asia, Washington's geographic advantage and integrated logistics system have positioned it perfectly for its key world business role.
Products move in and out of the state via 75 public ports, including river ports, such as the Port of Klickitat on the Columbia River. The state's water transport system extends 352 river miles inland, with additional port facilities on the mid and upper Columbia River and Snake River.
As expected in a state with a major aerospace and aircraft presence, Washington is also a force in the air, with 139 airports, including 13 with commercial service. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is one of the world's busiest.
The Port of Tacoma, a rare natural deep-water port, serves as a gateway for international trade for products including container traffic, automobiles, grain and other natural resources. The port, served by two Class I railroads and a short-line carrier, also serves domestic markets in Alaska and Hawaii.
As one of the largest container ports in the United States, Tacoma handled 1.5 million containers in 2010. The port recently added five ocean carriers to the roster of services that call at the port. Also, the port is investing in infrastructure to handle the larger vessels that will call after the Panama Canal expansion is finished.
In the past few years, the port has completed extensive improvements, such as the $24.5 million project that built grade separations in the port's road system to avoid delays in rail and truck traffic, part of the regional FAST (Freight Action Strategy for the Everett-Seattle-Tacoma Corridor) infrastructure initiative.
"We put premium on the partnerships we are able to create, whether that's with the transportation industry or surrounding communities, and those partnerships allow us to maximize our performance in moving cargo," says Sean Eagan, Port of Tacoma government affairs director.
With as many as one in three jobs related to international trade, Washington is a vibrant place for companies to do business.
"The people here understand the connection between us and the rest of the globe," says Brian Mannelly, the port's planning director.
At the Port of Klickitat, Custom Interface Inc., a manufacturer of custom cable and wire harnesses and electromechanical assemblies, is building a new manufacturing and headquarters facility. The new building, located in a HUB or historically underutilized business district, will allow the company to consolidate operations from three buildings into one and give them space to add jobs, says Jane Beatty, president.
"We literally have no place to put another person now, and we'll be able to implement far better lean manufacturing that allows us to expand our research and development," she says.
The company looked at sites in other states, but decided to remain in Washington because of the pro-business environment and emphasis on the aerospace industry.
"The governor is very interested in growing the aerospace industry, and that's certainly an area that we do well in, and want to continue to grow in," Beatty says.