Press Release

Thursday, November 12

AWB Honors Leading Washington Manufacturers

Five manufacturers earn awards for innovation, environmental sensitivity, operational excellence from state’s largest business association

SEATAC —Fremont Brewing Company was named the 2015 Manufacturer of the Year today by the Association of Washington Business. The award honors the brewery for its commitment to organic and locally sourced ingredients, its innovative partnership to generate electricity from waste, its leadership on employee benefits and its strong political advocacy for all manufacturers.

This Seattle company was one of five employers honored for their contributions to the state’s manufacturing economy during the association’s annual Manufacturing Summit at the Crowne Plaza SeaTac. A panel of independent judges selected the winners from among 38 nominations, the most ever received for the annual awards.

Claar Wine Group of Pasco and Earth Friendly Products of Lacey received Green Manufacturing awards for their work to preserve and enhance Washington's environment through ecologically sensitive operations. The Lighthouse for the Blind, with operations in Seattle and Spokane, received the Operational Excellence Award for continuous process improvement and use of technology to benefit its workforce. Broetje Orchards, Prescott, earned the Innovation Award for decades of creating strong communities while bringing new products to market, including its status as the exclusive American grower of the Opal apple.

The 2015 Manufacturing Excellence Awards are sponsored by RSM (formerly McGladrey) and the AWB Institute, AWB’s educational arm dedicated to manufacturing and workforce development.

“We had a record number of nominations for this year's awards, and it was hard to pick just a few winners from such a great sampling of Washington's innovative manufacturing leaders,” said AWB President Kris Johnson.

“These employers prove every day that modern manufacturing is a vital part of our state's economy. From high-tech innovations to a focus on continuous process improvement, manufacturers from around the nation and world are watching what's happening right here in Washington,” Johnson said.

More about these five innovative Washington manufacturers and their 2015 AWB awards:

2015 Manufacturer of the Year

This premier award recognizes companies having a commitment to business excellence with a positive impact not only on the company, but for the local community and state as a whole. Judges evaluated the entrepreneurial spirit of the firm’s ability to successfully and creatively solve challenges in a way that raise the industry standard. Involvement in state/local public policy issues affecting manufacturers was also considered.

Fremont Brewing Company, Seattle, @fremontbrewing

The Fremont Brewing Company was founded in 2008 as recession took hold, forcing them to grow with cost-saving and conservation measures that have become part of the company DNA. With start-up money tight, they put a 28-foot wall down the middle of their production space and subleased to a green energy start-up that created methane from the brewery’s spent grain. Fremont uses organic hops and are working to revive sustainable grain farms in Western Washington. The company has grown from four employees at startup to 61, quickly becoming the third-largest independently owned brewery in Washington. They provide full health coverage for employees and their families, give 21 days of paid leave for vacation and sick days, and even give a weekly beer allotment. After averaging more than 75 percent growth per year, the company is expanding into a larger facility in Ballard to meet demand. Fremont Brewing is helping advance a more positive business climate in Washington, successfully opposing a proposed beer excise tax and giving support for allowing brewery tasting rooms to serve cider.

Green Manufacturing Award

For an employer that has maximized energy efficiency levels, gone above and beyond regulatory requirements, minimized waste from the production process and reduced carbon footprint. Converting green manufacturing into a business opportunity is also considered.

Claar Wine Group, Pasco, @Claarwinegroup

When Russell Claar planted his first vineyard in 1979, its soft, sandy soil overlooking the Columbia River required close attention to water use and cultivation of natural plants. As the company has grown to 130 acres of vineyards and a wide family of brands, the attention to sustainability and water use has continued. Claar uses variable speed pumps reduce energy use and grape skins for road paving. They have kestrel boxes to house birds that control rodents and they cultivate beneficial insects to control pests so pesticide use is reduced. The winery, barrel room and storage building are heated and cooled through ground water geothermal heat exchange, saving electricity. Greywater from the winery is used for irrigation. The winery uses light glass for bottling, saving energy in shipments. Claar’s processes have been certified sustainable by LIVE, an independent third-party inspector, allowing their wines to be sold in Whole Foods and high-end restaurants where sustainability is valued.

Earth Friendly Products, Lacey, @EFPClean

Earth Friendly Products, which makes environmentally friendly and toxin-free household and commercial cleaning products, has made green manufacturing a priority for decades. The efforts are paying off. The company switched to 100 percent renewable energy in 2010 and in 2013 achieved carbon neutrality — avoiding emission of nearly 54 million pounds of carbon dioxide a year. Strict waste management programs have earned them more than $180,000 from selling recyclables since 2010 and cut their overall waste by 95 percent, saving them $110,000 in trash disposal costs. Earth Friendly Products encourages a more sustainable lifestyle for employees as well, providing green benefits such as a $2,000 incentive to buy an eco-friendly car, a $1,000 relocation incentive to move closer (to within 10 miles) of the facility, and a $2,000 incentive to install solar panels on the employee’s family home.

Operational Excellence Award

Honoring a distinctive manufacturing process, including continuous improvement, environmental solutions/innovations, lean and six sigma, R&D leadership and/or application of high technology.

The Lighthouse for the Blind, Seattle, @Lighthouse_Inc

Since 1918, The Lighthouse for the Blind has created manufacturing work opportunities for the blind, visually impaired and deaf-blind. It expands the range of jobs that can be performed by employees with disabilities by using a wide variety of accessible technology: 3-D blueprints, digital gauges, adaptive technology and voice-interactive machines, digital screen reading software and digital displays, among many others. An aerospace and military supplier, it has a 99.95 percent quality acceptance rating and a 99.76 on-time delivery rating. Companies such as Boeing, CAMPS and Premera Blue Cross have visited to learn about the lean and Six Sigma manufacturing processes in place at The Lighthouse’s Seattle and Spokane operations. Since 1953, over 9,000 people who are blind and deaf-blind have benefitted from this employer — and the rest of the manufacturing world is learning from its innovations and devotion to continuous improvement.

Innovation Award

For demonstration of significant progress in designing, developing and delivering a blockbuster product concept and maintaining a competitive advantage by sustaining considerable innovation while remaining responsive to market demands. Manufactured products are unique and innovative.

Broetje Orchards, Prescott

Family-owned Broetje Orchards is on a mission to grow apples, build community and solve needs around the world. The company produces 320 million pounds of fruit annually and has built three communities to house their workers, complete with churches, recreation areas, sports teams, day care and schools. Their manufacturing process involves $20 million lines of computerized equipment employing 350 full-time workers to pack 30,000 boxes of fruit each day — 8 million boxes per year. Their business growth also comes from understanding their consumers. The Broetjes were among the first to sense the promise of the Granny Smith apple, quietly planting vast lands with this New Zealand import. They did it again with the Fuji, becoming the first orchard in Washington to export these prized apples to Southeast Asia. Now they’ve become the exclusive American growers of the Opal™ apple, developed in the Czech Republic. Iridescent yellow, crisp and firm, certified GMO-free, many consumers prefer it to Honeycrisp. Opal sales are up 800 percent and grocers are replacing Golden Delicious with this sweet new Washington-grown Broetje apple.

Video profiles of each of the five award winners are available via the AWB website. Award photos will also be available online. Media on deadline should contact AWB directly for immediate access to photos. 

About the Association of Washington Business

Formed in 1904, the Association of Washington Business is Washington’s oldest and largest statewide business association, and includes more than 7,900 members representing 700,000 employees. AWB serves as both the state’s chamber of commerce and the manufacturing and technology association. While its membership includes major employers like Boeing, Microsoft and Weyerhaeuser, 90 percent of AWB members employ fewer than 100 people. More than half of AWB’s members employ fewer than 10. For more about AWB, visit

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