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October 4, 2017

Manufacturing Week bus tour completes eastern swing, heads west

By: Jason Hagey   Comments: 0
Staff at Schweitzer Engineering Labs in Pullman welcomed AWB staff for a tour of the facility on Oct. 4 as part of AWB's Manufacturing Week bus tour.

The diversity of Washington’s manufacturing was evident Wednesday as AWB’s manufacturing tour buses stopped at shopfloors and farm fields throughout Eastern Washington.

One bus started the day at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, a company that employs thousands in Washington. Like many of the employers visited on the tour, SEL came about because an entrepreneur had an idea and pursued it.

The bus stopped at several agricultural manufacturers later, including The McGregor Company’s location in Clarkston. McGregor was one of three companies featured this year in AWB’s Grow Here advertising campaign.

Other ag stops included Broetje Orchards in Prescott, and Norwest Ingredients and Royal Ridge Fruits in Royal City.

The AWB bus stopped Wednesday at Genie Lift in Moses Lake. Photo: Brian Mittge/AWB
The other bus started the day in Spokane with a visit to Kaiser Aluminum, where employees make the materials used in F15 E Strike Eagle wing tips, among other things.

“This is what people do with our materials,” said Kyle England, senior manager, human resources and external affairs for Kaiser. “It’s pretty important stuff.”

Making aluminum requires a lot of energy, but England said it’s important to keep companies like his in the United States, If they don’t remain here, the material they make will be made in places with lower environmental standards.

The bus also stopped at Inland Empire Paper. It’s the largest newsprint and specialty paper producer in the country, producing more than 500 tons of paper each day.

The operation includes an integrated recycling facility, which was opened in 1991 in response to regulations enacted in California that mandated minimum recycled paper content. But now, ironically, the recycling part of the operation is in jeopardy because of new water quality standards, said Doug Krapas, environmental manager.

One aim of the bus tour is to hear from manufacturers about the challenges they face. Manufacturing is a vital part of Washington’s economy, employing nearly 300,000 people. But the sector has declined by about 50,000 employees since 2000.

One way to support manufacturers, particularly in rural communities, is to restore the business and occupation tax relief that lawmakers approved this year but was later vetoed by the governor. Employers are also asking for fair and predictable regulation and to support policies that promote trade and exports.

Another goal of the tour is simply to celebrate Washington’s diverse manufacturers, makers of everything from farm implements and boom lifts to craft spirits and apples.

And manufacturing employees celebrate at the conclusion of each tour stop by signing their names on the side of the two vinyl-wrapped buses.

Wednesday's tour stops include:

Bus 1

Bus 2

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 Twitter @AWBOlympia and @AWBInstitute.