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Factory tours put spotlight on manufacturing sector in Washington

A worker at Buyken Metal Products during the manufacturing bus tour in 2018.
Courtesy of Assocation of Washington Business
A worker at Buyken Metal Products during the manufacturing bus tour in 2018.

When you think of manufacturing in Washington, you probably think of Boeing airplanes. But you’ll also find factories in the state that make leather work gloves and music stands sold around the world. For the third year in a row, the Association of Washington Business is putting a spotlight on manufacturing with a statewide bus tour. 

The tour begins on Oct. 2 in Vancouver, Washington, and wraps up Oct. 10 in Yakima. Association of Washington Business spokesman Jason Hagey said the hope is to show political leaders who join the tour along the way how much the manufacturing sector has changed.


“It’s not the dirty old industry of the past," he said. "A lot of these companies are clean, high-tech companies that require skilled workers, and provide jobs that are careers and offer a good career path for people."


Hagey said often good paying jobs go unfilled because there's a skills gap. He said even with automation, there’s still a need for people to build and operate the programs that run the machines.

But, he said, convincing young people to give a manufacturing career a try isn't always an easy sell. Often, he says, their parents are skeptical of the choice. According to the Association of Washington Business, there are 7,300 factory shop floors in the state where 280,000 workers are employed.

Hagey said the tour also gives political leaders an opportunity to hear from business owners. He said adequate infrastructure, including roads, is a big topic for manufacturers, as is a looming trade war.


“A lot of our manufacturers sell their products all around the world and trade obviously has been a big issue lately and we’ll explore some of those issues,” he said.

Tour stops run the gamut, from the Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery to Cascade Designs in Seattle, which makes outdoor recreation gear, to Churchill Glove Company in Centralia. On a previous tour, the Manhasset music stand company in Yakima was featured.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.