Cantwell at Aerospace Showcase: PacNW Poised to Become Global Leader in Composite Materials Manufacturing

Greater Spokane region was recently designated as America’s Aerospace Materials Manufacturing Tech Hub; Designation means Washington state may soon be home to the first ever full-scale advanced aerospace materials fabricator in the world

KENT, WA – Today, at a roundtable discussion at Blue Origin in Kent, WA, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) described what the recent Spokane Tech Hub designation means for Washington state: that the region is going to become the global leader not just in aircraft manufacturing, but in researching and manufacturing the next generation of materials used to build those airplanes and space ships.

In October, the U.S. Department of Commerce designated the greater Spokane region as the nation’s Tech Hub for aerospace materials manufacturing. The designation means that the federal government is betting on Washington state – on both sides of the Cascade Mountains – as the future of our nation’s aviation and aerospace industry.

The Tech Hub designation also qualifies the Spokane-based consortium, called the American Aerospace Materials Manufacturing Center, as one of just 31 groups across the country now eligible for up to $75 million in federal funding authorized by the Cantwell-led CHIPS & Science Act.

If the Spokane Tech Hub receives that funding, it will be able to purchase a 5,000-ton thermoplastics press to create the first-ever full-scale fabrication of these advanced composite materials – the only fabrication facility of its kind in the world

"Being designated a Tech Hub means the United States already believes that we are capable of pulling this off,” Sen. Cantwell said during a roundtable with aerospace industry leaders, academic researchers, workforce development partners, and Spokane-area manufacturers.

“If this Tech Hub proposal is successful, it means we would be the only place in the world to have that capability to make plane parts of that size, and of the type that we need,” Sen. Cantwell continued. “That full-scale fabrication of composite components -- for everything from ribs to beams to wings to frames to bulkheads -- I think could put us in a place of demonstrating the scale that we need.”

By designating the Spokane-based American Aerospace Materials Manufacturing Center as a Tech Hub, the U.S. government recognized that the Greater Spokane region, and Washington state as a whole, is the country’s preeminent center for the future development, commercialization, and manufacturing of advanced aerospace composite materials. Washington state is already home to a robust aerospace and aviation economy – the sector employs 130,000 workers. According to the Spokane Tech Hub consortium, there are 54 aerospace suppliers within 20 miles of Spokane.

More information on Spokane’s Tech Hub designation and what that means for the greater Washington state aerospace ecosystem is available HERE.

Sen. Cantwell, who serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, established the Tech Hub program in her landmark CHIPS & Science Act. The program aims to harness and support existing pockets of regional expertise, boosting U.S. competitiveness by ensuring that innovation is happening across the country.

Following the roundtable, participants held a composite materials showcase followed by a demonstration of Blue Origin’s 3D printing manufacturing center. In addition to Sen. Cantwell, participants included:

  • Craig Companion, Senior Director of Blue Origin
  • David Leach, Director of Business Development at ATC Manufacturing 
  • Sharnae St. Clair, Student Affairs Specialist for the Machinists Institute
  • Nikki Malcom, CEO of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance
  • Marco Salviato, Director of the University of Washington Advanced Composites Center
  • Tony Guiliano, Senior Manager of Boeing Commercial Airplanes
  • Kelley Sowards, President of Impact Washington
  • Trevor McCrea, Thermoplastic Composites Manager at Syensqo

Video of today’s roundtable is available HERE and HERE; photos of the event are HERE.