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In Puyallup, A Maker Of Garage Doors Hopes For A Pacific Trade Deal

Ashley Gross
Paul Clark is one of 245 people who work for Northwest Door, a Puyallup-based maker of garage doors

The fast-track bill that passed in the U.S. Senate clears the way for President Obama to finish negotiating a new Pacific Rim trade deal, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

That’s welcome news to Washington businesses ranging from dairy farmers to potato growers to aerospace suppliers, as well as Northwest Door, a Puyallup-based maker of garage doors. 

Jeff Hohman is president of the company, which has about 245 employees. He recently gave a tour of Northwest Door's 300,000-square-foot factory that cranks out about 1,000 garage doors a day. 

"We start with flat steel that’s completely smooth, and as we walk down the line, you’ll see how it’s transformed into a finished garage door section," he said. Some models of garage doors can be manufactured in less than a minute; others take as long as four weeks.

Credit Ashley Gross / KPLU
Northwest Door's 300,000 square foot facility


In recent years, Northwest Door has started exporting everywhere from New Zealand to Saudi Arabia. 

"On the surface, you wouldn’t normally think, garage doors, export. And we’ve been just stunned," Hohman said. 

Turns out, their insulated steel garage doors are popular overseas, especially in hot countries because they keep garages cool.

Hohman is such an advocate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, he even got to meet with the president earlier this year. He was one of a few businesspeople who told President Obama why getting other countries to remove tariffs would help.  

"As an example, in the country of New Zealand, we face a 5 percent tariff right now that would be eliminated with the Trans-Pacific Partnership," Hohman said. 

He says New Zealand doesn’t have a tariff on Chinese garage doors, so that makes it harder for him to compete.

Still, not everyone thinks the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be good for Washington state. Labor groups say the agreement doesn’t include enough protections for workers and the environment, and they’re concerned that more manufacturing jobs could move overseas.

Hohman says his company plans to keep producing garage doors here. He says American-made products have a lot of cachet overseas. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.