Hitting the road with the AWB
The Association of Washington Business is going on tour. Assembled into two decked-out buses, the AWB team is crisscrossing Washington state visiting local manufacturers to celebrate National Manufacturing Day. The six-day, 70-plus-stop tour has brought the group to a 154-year-old textile manufacturer, a four-year-old brewery and a maker of first responder vehicles, as part of an effort to promote locally-made goods and public policies that support makers.
“This is our inaugural statewide bus tour celebrating and highlighting the importance of manufacturing to the economy and the state of Washington,” said Kris Johnson, president and CEO at AWB. “We recognize that a vast majority of manufacturers are either privately-held or family-owned, so it’s not just about building strong companies, it’s about building strong communities and families as well.”
The crew is travelling in two buses, outfitted out with colorful logos and eye-catching designs. At every stop along the tour, workers are invited to autograph the bus and pose for a group photo with the signed bus in the background.
“How often has it been legal for you to write on a vehicle?” mused Johnson. “There must be 3–400 signatures on it with the different logos. It’s really cool to see the all the personalization on this bus.”
Among the tour’s stops was Lampson International LLC, a family-owned maker of heavy lift cranes that employees 450 people in the Tri Cities area of southeastern Washington. They also stopped off at John I. Haas Inc., the leading provider of hops throughout North America.
“Every single manufacturer we’ve visited is so appreciative that we’re doing this,” said Johnson. “We are seeing a mixture of the types of products we all use in our everyday lives, but sometimes forget they are made right here in our local communities.”
Aside from meeting with manufacturers, the tour also includes an educational component. At Delta High School, a STEM school in Pasco, Washington, Johnson spoke to students about available science and technology opportunities in the local economy.
“At Delta, they’re preparing students for the types of STEM-related careers you can get when you’re done with high school,” said Johnson. “We know that 70 percent of all job openings by 2020 will require some type of STEM or post-K-12 experience, so these programs are really essential for developing talent locally.
Johnson says he hopes the tour will spread awareness about the important role that manufacturers play locally, as well as the policies they need to thrive. He says that issues related to regional competitiveness, like lowering tax rates on manufacturers, will be key to increasing prosperity in the state.
“The folks we’re meeting with clearly understand how important competitiveness relief is, especially when they’re competing against companies all across the globe,” said Johnson, adding that, “these companies could really use some predictability, reliability and common sense relief from a competitiveness standpoint.”
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