EDMONDS, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, held a virtual roundtable with representatives from aerospace manufacturing and supply chain companies around the State of Washington to talk about the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses and their recovery needs.
“The aerospace sector is so important to the Pacific Northwest,” Cantwell said at the roundtable. “Prior to all of this, we employed about 130,000 thousand people, I think we’ve lost about 30,000 during this time period. And as you said, when production ramps back-up, we certainly want to have to workforce to continue to meet those challenges of the aerospace future, which we all know is becoming more and more competitive every day. So keeping a skilled workforce is a huge priority.”
In the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March, Cantwell secured $3 billion in funding for a new grant program—the American Manufacturing Jobs Protection (AMJP) program—to help manufacturers retain employees and continue operations. The U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced initial steps they are taking to implement the program in the coming months.
Speaking about the new grant program, Mark Norton, the Chair of the Inland Northwest Aerospace Consortium (INWAC), said: “This legislation that Senator Cantwell and her team have been championing is really critical because we need support to keep our workforce in place. Workforce in aerospace has a very specialized skill set, they’re not easily replaced, and the thing we want to avoid as this industry recovers is not having enough workforce to meet the demand of the OEMs, which not only hurts our businesses but also hurts the general economy.”
Jim Lee, the General Manager of Tool Gauge in Tacoma, told a story about losing a highly-skilled engineer for his company and wondering if they would be able to replace her: “And it was about 48 hours later when we heard about this program, and then I read through the one-pager that I received from Senator Cantwell’s office. I said ‘yeah, we absolutely qualify for this.’ I ran some numbers and I said, ‘hey you know, this would actually help us.’ So we agreed, just two days ago, that we would go ahead and post that position and try to find a replacement. So I mean there’s some anecdotal evidence that it does make a difference, and it is important, and we very much appreciate it.”
Cantwell responded, “That’s what we want to hear. Listen, I don’t know if anyone wants to comment about the competition in the future but I just keep trying to explain to my colleagues that who think that, you know, just everything is fine after COVID. But the competition in aerospace is ramping up and we had a great first hundred years run at this, but the next hundred years is going to be a lot of competition. So we have to work hard if United States wants to continue to keep these jobs and be competitive so it’s great news, great news, and thank you for sharing it.”
A recording of the full event can be found HERE.