Business leader: “When we emerge from the pandemic, manufacturing will lead the economic recovery.”

The Association of Washington Business has for several yers conducted a Manufacturing Week bus tour. (See our reports on the tour in 2019, 2018, and 2017. This year was different. (How many times have those words been written?)

AWB president Kris Johnson writes about this year’s virtual tour and makes important points about the role manufacturing plays in the Washington economy.

Normally, our staff spends the first week of October on a bus, traveling the state and touring shopfloors to highlight the importance of manufacturing jobs.

This year, because of the pandemic, we couldn’t go inside dozens of manufacturing companies, so we got creative. We built a mobile video studio and hit the road, setting up each day at a different manufacturing-related venue and streaming interviews with manufacturing leaders, elected officials and young people like Kaitlyn who are just beginning their careers.

Even though the format was different, the goal remained the same: To highlight the vital role that manufacturers play in the health of our economy and our communities.

The economic contributions of manufacturers are substantial.

Manufacturing accounts for 8.5% of the state’s nonfarm employment and produces more than $63 billion in economic output — approximately 11% of the Gross State Product. There are more than 6,500 manufacturing companies across Washington, from big companies like Boeing to small, family firms that started in a garage or basement.

It’s good to be reminded of the vitality and resilience of the industry. AWB has designated a web page with videos of the week’s activity,  

The week-long series of streaming programs highlighted the importance of manufacturing to the state’s economic recovery and called attention to ways policy makers and others can support manufacturers.

Every show was full of interviews and featured different locations every day, but all were focused on shining a spotlight on Washington’s makers, highlight the importance of manufacturing to the state’s economic recovery and call attention to ways policy makers and others can support manufacturers. Challenges facing manufacturing include a complex regulatory environment, relatively high taxes and a skills gap making it difficult to find qualified workers. This is all on top of the unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus.

Critical facts:

Key messages

  • Manufacturing remains a vital part of Washington’s economy even as the economy grows and evolves.
  • Roughly 10 percent of Washington’s workforce is employed in manufacturing.
  • Manufacturing offers a pathway to the middle class with good-paying careers (average wage of $84,447); many do not require a four-year degree.
  • This is not your grandfather’s manufacturing economy. In many respects, today’s manufacturing jobs are high-tech jobs that require some form of post-secondary education.

By the numbers

  • In 2017 there were approximately 7,636 manufacturers in Washington who provided over 280,000 jobs. (U.S. Department of Labor)
  • The average manufacturing compensation is $88,492 per year. (National Association of Manufacturers)
  • Total output from manufacturing was $58.77 billion in 2017. That’s 11.6% of the total output for the state.

We encourage you to visit the site. As Johnson says in his column,

…when we finally emerge from the pandemic, manufacturing will no doubt lead the economic recovery.

As always, public policy plays a role in that recovery.

We need to provide a regulatory environment that allows manufacturers to grow. We need to invest in infrastructure so manufacturers can get their goods to market and their employees can get to work. And we must continue to focus on workforce training to ensure that people who need jobs have the skills they need to fill existing job openings.

We encourage you to read the column and visit the web page.