Annual aerospace summit confirms continuing importance of industry to state economy; identifies steps to stay competitive

Washington’s aerospace industry continues to bolster the state economy. Geek Wire reports,

A draft assessment, prepared by Seattle-based Community Attributes for the Washington Aerospace Partnership, estimates the state aerospace industry’s total impact during 2015 at $94.7 billion in revenues, which is 9.4 percent above the previous year’s figure.

Employment in aerospace and related industries was estimated at 136,100 jobs in 2015, up from 132,500 in 2012. That doesn’t include the impact of Boeing workforce reductions that were announced this year.

When indirect effects such as spending by aerospace workers are taken into account, the employment impact rises to 252,800 jobs.

The Seattle Times also provides key findings from the report, including

• Almost one-fifth of all U.S. aerospace-manufacturing jobs are in this state, largely due to Boeing.

• The number of direct aerospace jobs in 2015, nearly 94,000, was essentially flat from the previous year. 


• Aerospace workers earned average annual pay of $107,000 — twice the state average of $54,000.

• 27,000 additional employees worked in aerospace-related jobs, such as carbon-fiber manufacturing.

The full impact report is not yet available on the site; we’ll link to it when it becomes available). 

The News Tribune reports on the industry’s impact in Pierce County.

Bruce Kendall, CEO of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, said the report is critical for recruiting new aerospace-related companies to Pierce County.

Much like the software industry, aerospace companies “love to cluster together,” Kendall said.

“What they want to do is tap into that (existing) workforce. They don’t mind at all competing for employees that might be working somewhere else,” Kendall said. “You want to go where the talent is.”

Pierce County has 136 production suppliers and other aerospace vendors for Boeing, behind King and Snohomish counties, according to the report. The firms here have developed a particular expertise in composites manufacturing, among them Toray Composites and General Plastics.

Overall, aerospace firms in Pierce County employed 2,610 workers in 2015, according to the report, the third-largest concentration of aerospace jobs by county in the state.

Numbers like these help explain the Gov. Jay Inslee’s enthusiasm, as reported by Geek Wire.

“I’ve lived here for 65 years, and I’ve never been more confident about aerospace and the future in the state of Washington,” the first-term Democratic governor told an audience here at the 11th annual Governor’s Aerospace Summit, presented by the Aerospace Futures Alliance of Washington.

But they also serve as a reminder of the reasons for intense interstate competition for those jobs. Inslee listed five steps for preserving and strengthening the cluster here. Geek Wire summarizes them as:

  • Cultivate a talented workforce,
  • Upgrade transportation infrastructure,
  • Boost support for exports,
  • Foster innovation and
  • Strengthen the supply chain. 

We have emphasized many those same points. And, we’d add maintain a competitive cost structure, including wise use of tax policy.

As we wrote in our foundation report, competition never stands still. And, as the economic report documents, Washington has a lot at stake in the competition for aerospace jobs, investment, and innovation.