Commentary: Manufacturing, Technology Sectors Provide Solid Foundation Through Pandemic and Beyond


The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how easy it is to take things for granted. Family barbecues, baseball games and kids going to school are just a few examples.

As some of our old way of life comes back this spring, it's worth noting another thing that's easy to take for granted: Washington's strong manufacturing and technology sectors.

A new Association of Washington Business report shows how these two areas provide a reliable foundation for our state's overall success, from great paying jobs to billions in state revenue. As state and federal lawmakers work to help us bounce back from COVID-19, it's critical to support policies that help these sectors thrive.

Manufacturing alone employed more than 300,000 workers in 2019, which is 9% of the state's nonfarm workforce, the report by High Peak Strategy shows. These jobs pay well, with average wages of more than $81,000 per year. And these jobs are located in every county in Washington, highlighting that manufacturing is vital and alive in the state

The employers that support these jobs are often small family businesses that anchor our communities. Vaagen Timber makes cross-laminated timber products in Colville. Spokane's Hotstart Thermal Management designs and manufactures engine heating systems and other products. Callisons in Lacey is a leading supplier of mint oils and flavors. And SEA-LECT Plastics in Everett is an injection molding manufacturer with a strong apprenticeship program.

The report also shows that technology is a quickly growing sector with more than 276,000 workers in 2019. And there are 12 Washington counties with at least a thousand technology workers.

These industries are critical for state revenues as well. Manufacturing and technology accounted for more than $6 billion in direct and secondary tax payments to the state budget in 2019. That's about half of what our state spends on public education in a year, and more than twice what we spend on higher education.

And these industries undoubtedly helped maintain Washington's state budget over the past year. A recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that Washington is No. 1 among 50 states in terms of revenue growth since the start of the pandemic.

Let's not take this for granted. And let's focus our energy on creating the right conditions so all employers can succeed and create jobs. This means infrastructure to get goods to market and workers to their jobs, virtually or in-person. Workforce training, support for small businesses, expanding broadband availability, regulatory reform, and keeping our state competitive are also high on the list.

As vaccinations increase and we emerge from our COVID-19 lockdowns, let's remember that Washington's manufacturing and technology sectors continue to provide a solid foundation for our future success.

And we look forward to building on that foundation by helping Washington meet the state’s new goal of doubling the number of manufacturing jobs by 2031.


Kris Johnson is president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s chamber of commerce and manufacturers association.




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LL Hauer

It’s great to see this support by the Chamber of Commerce for improvements to rural broadband. If Gov. Inslee signs the new law allowing local PUDs to expand internet access, hopefully the Chamber can find ways to partner with our dynamic and pro-active Lewis County PUD to make much-needed improvements in expanding rural internet access.

It’s also really good to see mention of laminated timber products and their terrific potential for developing manufacturing and creating well-paying jobs. Developing this industry in Lewis County would build on our already strong timber resources. Although he didn’t mention developing industrial hemp, which also have a lot of economic potential, Mr. Johnson does point to mint and mint-oil products as another possible area of agricultural development worth exploring.

Let’s see what we can do with these areas of potential economic development, since they would build on Lewis County’s long, proud history of agricultural strength.

Saturday, May 8