WASHINGTON state knows aircraft manufacturing is one of its crown jewels, and it is nice to see the other Washington knows it, too. The U.S. Economic Development Administration last week designated the state’s aerospace industry as one of a dozen “manufacturing communities” nationally that will be eligible for a torrent of federal economic development money.
Boeing sets the pace for Washington’s thriving industry, and the jetmaker’s supply chain runs deep — a total of 1,350 companies in this state with 132,000 workers. It is the biggest aerospace cluster in the world, boasts the Puget Sound Regional Council, which applied for the special designation.
The federal program was designed to promote manufacturing clusters like these — shipbuilding on the Alabama gulf coast, metals machining in the Chicago area and so forth. Washington and the 11 other manufacturing communities nationwide will be first in line for some $1.3 billion in federal economic development funds and other assistance over the next two years.
The regional council has some big plans, like training programs that emphasize composite technology, the big new thing in aircraft construction. It will seek funds for an effort to map out the supply chain to see where gaps might exist locally, for biofuels research at the state’s research universities, and for improvement to regional airports and rail spurs.
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The federal initiative is a good start, and the focus on Washington aerospace is understandable because it is a highly concentrated, easily definable group of companies. But Dave Gering of the Manufacturing Industrial Council of Seattle points out that manufacturing is more than just aerospace. Manufacturing is responsible for 17 to 18 percent of the state’s jobs and a third of the state’s economic output. Non-aerospace manufacturing is equally deserving of recognition and encouragement.
Where Washington manufacturing is concerned, airplanes are just the beginning.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).