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Washington State Crafts Advanced Materials Strength

Washington state is a manufacturing powerhouse with more than 7,000 companies employing almost 260,000 workers engaged in making products for the industries for which the state is renowned, including advanced products for the aerospace, marine craft and forestry industries.

By Stephanie Vozza on January 21, 2014

If some of the world’s most advanced products had a label, it would read Made in Washington.

The state is a manufacturing powerhouse, with more than 7,000 companies employing almost 260,000 workers. These firms are engaged in making products for industries for which the state is renowned, including advanced products for the aerospace, marine craft and forestry industries.

“Technical manufacturing is the key to American industry,” says Lisa Janicki, CFO of Janicki Industries. “A capital-intensive business like Janicki Industries thrives in Washington where government understands and supports the aerospace industry.”

The company designs and builds high-precision tooling for aerospace, marine, wind energy and transportation customers. Its R&D lab continuously pushes the boundaries of composite fabrication materials and techniques.

Location Yields Advantage

The company’s location in Washington state helps in a number of ways, she says.

Community and technical colleges collaborate with industry to design courses that are relevant to workforce needs.

Recent aerospace grants have expanded a marine technology center in Skagit County to include advanced composite manufacturing. In addition, through specific funding from the state, six local high schools joined with Skagit Valley College to build the Northwest Career & Technical Academy, where high school students can earn certificates in specific work fields.

The state is a recognized world leader in advanced materials innovation, gaining a reputation as the Silicon Valley of Composites. Washington manufacturers are major players in the construction and use of parts, components and finished products using advanced composites, as well as tools to fabricate composite material. In addition to Janicki Industries, more than 40 composite companies operate in Washington including Hexcel, Composite Solutions, Toray and Triumph.

The composites sector has grown in tandem with the development and final assembly of the Boeing 787 in Everett, but is growing across a range of industries. SGL and BMW, for example, announced a joint venture in composite manufacturing in Moses Lake in 2010 to manufacture carbon fiber paneling for BMW’s new electric car, and automaker Lamborghini is partnering on composites research in the state.

Pumped Up On Washington

Washington offers a number of advantages, including access to markets and a talented workforce, as well as supportive governments, says Bruce Cazenave, CEO of Nautilus Inc.




“Being at the center of the Pacific Northwest not only puts us in the bull’s eye for attracting creative individuals, but it also puts us in closer proximity to our offshore manufacturers, which becomes an advantage from a logistics point of view,” he says.

“It’s also important for us to work in a city and state that fosters a strong business community, is supportive and makes doing business easy, and that is exactly what Vancouver, Washington, does for us,” says Cazenave.

Washington state’s active and healthy lifestyle is also a big plus.

“Quality of life plays a huge role at the Nautilus world headquarters. As our brands promote a healthy, fit and active lifestyle, it only makes sense to do business in the state known for its healthy population and culture. Combine that with our talented employees who live our brands in their daily lives, Vancouver is the perfect match for Nautilus,” says Cazenave.

Innovation Economy

Manufacturing, especially advanced manufacturing, is vitally important to the economy, says John Vicklund, president of Impact Washington, a nonprofit organization that provides expertise and technical assistance to the sector.




“Advanced manufacturing is critical to the U.S. and Washington economy because it drives more innovation than any other sector, performing two-thirds of all private sector R&D in the nation,” Vicklund says.

Companies such as PACCAR, a global leader in the design and manufacture of light- and heavy-duty trucks including Kenworth and Peterbilt, and Genie Industries, one of the world’s best-known manufacturers of aerial lifts, scissor lifts and booms, have helped position the state as an international manufacturing leader.

The sector contributes mightily to Washington state’s position as an export leader, shipping more than $64.6 billion in products to world markets in 2011. Seattle was the top U.S. city for manufacturing job growth in 2011.

To build and maintain strength in the sector, the state offers a number of incentive programs to assist manufacturing and resources such as Impact Washington. In addition, the Department of Commerce provides expertise and technical advice to manufacturers to help them become more efficient and profitable.

“Support for STEM education (science, technology engineering and math), transportation, the aerospace industry and other leading-edge industry sectors is a top priority of the governor and the legislature,” says Vicklund.

Washington state has, in addition to all of those strengths, another attribute that makes it an advanced manufacturing leader.

“The natural beauty of Northwest Washington attracts highly educated people who want to work hard and play harder. Access to activities such as mountain biking, kayaking and skiing are employee benefits that come with living within reach of both mountains and ocean,” says Janicki.

“We could build almost anywhere, but we want to raise our children in Northwest Washington.” 

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