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October 2, 2017

Manufacturing Week in full swing; two buses kick off tour of state

By: Jason Hagey   Comments: 0
Steve Smith, head of the Cardinal FG plant in Winlock, welcomes the AWB Manufacturing Bus onto the shop floor on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. (Photo: Brian Mittge/AWB)
AWB's first statewide manufacturing bus tour stopped Monday at a 50-year company founded by a Greek immigrant who landed in America with $23 in his pocket.

It stopped at a company that builds ambulances and other emergency vehicles that enable first responders to help people in 13 Western states.

The bus stopped at a 154-year-old textile manufacturer and a four-year-old brewery.

And it stopped at a college that's working to educate the next generation of manufacturers.

In all, the pair of buses traveling the state visited 12 employers that contribute in one way or another to Washington's diverse, vibrant manufacturing economy. 

"We make really cool things here in Washington," AWB President Kris Johnson told an audience at Lower Columbia College in Longview.
AWB President Kris Johnson discusses workforce and manufacturing with a luncheon crowd at Lower Columbia College in Longview on AWB's Manufacturing Tour.

AWB, which serves as Washington's manufacturing association, embarked on the bus tour to raise awareness about the importance of Washington's manufacturing employers, and to call attention to ways that lawmakers and others can help manufacturing expand.

One way is to reinstate the business and occupation (B&O) tax relief that lawmakers passed this year, but which was later vetoed by the governor, Johnson said.

Another way is to help schools like Lower Columbia College educate the next generation of workers.

"It's all about talent," Johnson said, noting the difficulty that many employers encounter finding skilled, educated workers.

Scot Walstra, vice president of the Cowlitz Economic Development Council, echoed Johnson's comments about worker training, saying its incumbent on educators to give young people training in useful, solid disciplines.

Walstra added, "we need a permit process that's predictable and fair."

The two-bus, statewide Manufacturing Week tour of manufacturing operations officially launched Monday morning at Earth Friendly Products, the company started by a Greek immigrant driven by a desire to create safe, affordable cleaning products.

InnoTech Metal Designs has been designing, fabricating and installing industrial, commercial, and residential metalwork throughout the Pacific Northwest since 2005.

It continued at Cardinal Glass, a 55-year-old maker of energy-efficient window products with 45 plants located throughout the country..

Other stops included: 

A second bus began its cross-state trip in northwest Washington on Sunday, starting the day in Bellingham with a tour of BP Cherry Point Refinery, InnoTech Metal Designs, Signs Plus, Inc., Aslan Brewing Company, then on to Janicki Industries in Sedro-Woolley and Canyon Creek Cabinet Company in Monroe.

The tour is generating positive reactions, both in person during visits and online. At each stop, employees sign their names on the side of AWB's tour bus to show their support for manufacturing, and they're posting photos on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #isignedthebus.

"Thanks for being here," said John Braun, president of family-run Braun Northwest and a Republican senator from Chehalis. "Thank you for promoting manufacturing throughout Washington."

Follow both buses online, join the tour and sign the bus. On social media, be sure to post your photos with the bus using the hashtags #isignedthebus and #MFGisWA. And, follow along on AWB's Twitter feed @AWBOlympia

Photos from the week-long tour are online at