Washington’s skilled aerospace, science and technology workers are a central part of the state’s economy. Washington ranks  among the top ten states in the nation for high-tech jobs, and Seattle is the fifth most innovative city in the nation, according to Forbes magazine. Maria has consistently supported boosting higher education to prepare the next generation of high-tech workers for careers in science, technology, math, aerospace, and engineering.


Washington state ranks first in the nation in the concentration of science, technology, energy, and mathematics (STEM) related jobs—and demand for these jobs is growing. Maria is working to strengthen STEM initiatives, and to prepare students to fill high-tech jobs and remain leaders in innovation. In 2007 Maria cosponsored and helped pass the America COMPETES Act, which invested in STEM education and bolstered research into science and technology. In 2010 Maria supported a bill that extended and strengthened the AMERICA COMPETES Act.

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Washington is home to more than 650 aerospace companies, which employ more than 90,000 workers representing 17 percent of all U.S. aerospace workers. As Chair of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee, Maria has led efforts to ensure that Washington remains a 21st century hub for the commercial aviation industry.

In 2003 Maria championed legislation that created the Federal Aviation Administration Center of Excellence for Advanced Material for Transport Aviation Structures (AMTAS), which partners academic institutions, local industry leaders and government agencies for research, education and workforce training programs. Maria played a key role in supporting the University of Washington’s efforts to lead the center.

AMTAS supports the aerospace industry’s research in the use of advanced aviation materials, such as composites and aluminum alloys, for use in civilian transport aircraft. Innovative research conducted by AMTAS students and scientists helped address safety and certification issues for building aircraft with composite materials. These findings allowed the Federal Aviation Administration to quickly certify the new 787 Dreamliner.

Read more about the Center of Excellence for Advanced Material for Transport Aviation Structures.

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In the past decade the clean energy economy in Washington has grown and contributed greatly to the state’s economy—adding nearly 15,000 jobs between 2003 and 2010. Today, Washington’s clean energy economy supports over 80,000 Washington jobs, according to a Brookings Institution study.     

Maria championed and helped pass key energy tax incentives in 2009 that encourage private investments in wind energy, biomass, hydropower and geothermal electricity facilities. These tax incentives have helped spur industry investment in clean energy jobs in Washington state. For example, in 2010 the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit helped REC Silicon expand its clean energy operations and support job growth in Moses Lake.

In 2007 Maria cosponsored and led the passage of the Advanced Research Projects Energy (ARPA-E) Act, which promotes clean-energy projects that are vital for long-term economic growth and job creation. ARPA-E supports cutting-edge energy initiatives in 18 states, including Washington. In Washington, ARPA-E programs have allowed scientists like the researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland begin developing new energy-efficient technology in commercial heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems. The Thurston Regional Planning Council in Olympia and the Conservative Services Group, Inc. in Bainbridge Island and Bremerton are also developing innovative renewable energy programs.

Read more about PNNL's innovative research.

Maria is also a leader working to grow Washington state’s growing biodiesel industry. In June 2011, Maria cosponsored bipartisan legislation that would reduce American dependence on petroleum-based fuel, protect the environment and drive down the cost of jet fuel. In November 2011 Seattle-based Alaska Airlines completed one of the first regularly scheduled commercial flights powered by biofuel. To jumpstart Washington state’s biofuel industry, Maria has repeatedly led efforts to extend financial incentives to companies that transition to biofuels through a biodiesel production tax credit.

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In December 2011 Maria introduced the OPEN Act, bipartisan legislation that would crack down on illegal piracy while keeping the Internet open for innovation. Passing the OPEN Act would help protect creative content and online freedom of speech while building on the existing legal framework for resolving trade infractions of tangible goods to enforce copyright and trademark infringement of digital goods such as music, movies and other intellectual property. 

“America’s economy thrives on innovation and freedom of speech. We can’t afford to rush an Internet policy that could trample on our innovation economy,” Maria said, urging Congress to pass the OPEN Act in January 2012.

Read more about the OPEN Act.  

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Maria helped to close a deadly blind spot in weather forecasting by leading efforts to build Washington’s first coastal Doppler radar in Grays Harbor. On September 29, 2011, Maria declared the Doppler operational.

The new radar is the first fully operational Doppler radar in the nation equipped with dual polarization—technology that enables forecasters to better view, track and predict incoming storms.  The speed and accuracy of Washington’s new Doppler will allow coastal communities to prepare for storms like never before.

As Chair of the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee, she requested a report that proved the gaping blind spot in weather radar coverage over the outer coast of Washington state. In 2010 Maria successfully led Congress to pass legislation to develop a new radar system for the Pacific coastline.

Watch a KBTC video about Washington’s new Doppler.

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