By Tiffany Sukola, April 2, 2013, Columbia Basin Herald
While Grant County has established a strong agricultural industry over the years, the expansion of Everett-based Aviation Technical Services to Moses Lake signals the growth of another emerging industry.
State and regional leaders celebrated the growth of the aerospace industry in Grant County during an ATS ribbon-cutting at the Grant County International Airport Friday.
The aircraft maintenance and repair company will occupy a 102,000-square-foot hangar at the airport. According to a recent Port of Moses Lake newsletter, ATS has committed to leasing the hangar for five years, with options to renew.
The expansion of ATS to Moses Lake created about 50 new jobs, according to a previous Columbia Basin Herald article. The company plans to add an additional 100 jobs over the next two years, depending on customer projects.
Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, said he supports growing the aerospace industry in Grant County.
“A diversified economy is good for our community, because all industries go through booms and busts,” he said. “But if you have a diversified economy, it smooths things out.”
Rep. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, said expanding the aerospace industry in the area seemed like a natural next move because the port’s facilities were ready for such a business.
“This fits well because we already have the airport and the runways to support it,” she said.
Warnick said local leaders have worked hard over the past few years to pitch the airport’s facilities to various aerospace companies. She said she was glad to hear that ATS would locate in Grant County.
“This is very much a step in the right direction, and we hope other companies take a look at us as well,” Warnick said.
Manweller also said he is glad ATS has set up internship programs for Big Bend Community College students.
“In smaller towns, in order to get a job sometimes you have to leave your town,” Manweller said. “Now we can take students from high school, to college to a nice living-wage job and they won’t have to leave Grant County.”
Gov. Jay Inslee was also at the ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, and said the aerospace industry has a lot of growth potential in the state.
While the demand for building airplanes is still high, companies like ATS aren’t necessarily being left with nothing to do, Inslee said.
“These airplanes are maturing and being recycled out of service faster than a lot of people thought because we’re building much more fuel efficient airplanes and displacing older aircraft,” he said. “There is a bigger demand for the recycling service that ATS is providing.”
A pair of Boeing 747’s are at the port right now, according to the port newsletter. One of those planes is being dismantled by ATS employees, and its useful parts will be sold.
Inslee said the growth of the aerospace industry in Washington means more aerospace jobs down the line. Making sure those jobs will be filled by Washington workers is a priority, he said.
Inslee said his budget prioritizes funding for higher education STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) instruction.
“I have some things that will help increase the number of STEM degrees, so that we can turn out degrees for jobs that really need filling,” he said.
Inslee also said he wants to focus on students in the K-12 system as well. He said he wants students coming out of high school to be more adept at math and science in order to fill industry jobs without needing as much training.
“Right now employers are having trouble filling thousands of jobs, and are looking at Canada and other places for employees,” he said. “I want to make sure those jobs are filled by people from our state.”