At The Lens, TJ Martinell reports on a legislative hearing held earlier this week.
Following its work during the 2021 legislative session that concluded earlier this year, state lawmakers on the Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee are now looking at the state of the manufacturing sector in Washington. While the sector has diminished in both workers and its share of the state’s overall workforce since 2000, a new report by the Association of Washington Business (AWB) emphasizes the continued importance of manufacturers to the state economy even as the sector overlaps with other industries.
“Our state wins when manufacturing is growing, which means we’re creating good jobs, high paying jobs in our state,” Rankin Equipment President Dave Rankin told the committee at its July 12 meeting. “Growing the manufacturing base in our state should be a bipartisan goal for policymakers.”
In 2019 manufacturing employed 305,300 workers in the state—or nine percent of total nonfarm employment, generating $192 billion in revenue and composing 20 percent of state gross business income for all industries. Although a drop from 2000, the current workforce size is an increase from the 286,300 workers employed in 2016.
These are also high-paying jobs, with the average annual wage in 2019 at $81,200 – 17 percent higher than the statewide average. Yet, due to a skilled labor shortage, employers have struggled to fill those positions.
The report addressed both manufacturing and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
“The distinction between tech and manufacturing as separate sectors is becoming less defined,” the report states. “Various manufacturing firms develop their own software solutions, whilst the ICT sector also designs and builds hardware products.”
AWB Government Affairs Director for Manufacturing Tommy Gantz told Senate committee members at the July 12 meeting that ICT is “important to our state economically, and a lot of manufacturing is wrapped up on that ICT technology. They’ve become somewhat codependent on one another.”
Both the report and testimony at the hearing addressed the challenges faced by the sectors in regulation, taxation, and other competitive elements. In our earlier post on the report, we wrote,
Most of these competitive factors – tax policy, worker training, energy costs and availability, and regulatory permitting – are directly affected by state and local public policies. Other states want what Washington has; Washington must compete to retain and win investment and jobs.
The hearings are a good start. More coverage at Washington State Wire.