Cantwell, Local Leaders Tout Potential Growth for High-Tech Manufacturing in Spokane Thanks to Recently-Passed CHIPS & Science Act

Cantwell: “We’re calling on Spokane. We’re calling on everybody to work together here to create the next innovations.”

SPOKANE, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined leaders from Spokane’s biosciences and aerospace industries, higher education, and state government at precision manufacturer Altek, Inc. to tout the major investment opportunities coming to the Spokane area in the recently-passed $250 billion CHIPS & Science Act.

The law will strengthen American manufacturing innovation and has the potential to support the growth of Spokane’s aerospace and biosciences industries, as well as the good-paying jobs those industries provide. Eastern Washington is already a candidate for a university research center and could be competitive for manufacturing innovation centers or regional technology hubs enabled by the CHIPS & Science Act, each of which aim to nurture locally-driven innovation regions like Spokane. The legislation could also provide funding opportunities for cutting-edge research at Gonzaga University and Washington State University, and help train the next generation of workers for high-tech Spokane-area companies.

“We're calling on Spokane,” said Sen. Cantwell. “We’re calling on everybody to work together here to create the next innovations that make our nation competitive in aerospace, in biosciences, and in other types of manufacturing. We're well poised to do that here. We have the land … We have the people and we have the companies and we're going to have universities who are going to take these dollars and make this investment so we can lead the nation.”

Other speakers touted the opportunities now available in the Spokane region thanks to the CHIPS & Science Act.

Said Andy Johnston, chair of Evergreen Biosciences Innovation Cluster:  “Spokane is a very innovative city and [that] makes it very attractive for bioscience companies both large and small. And all of these companies need innovations to bring their products to market. … We have a strong manufacturing aerospace pedigree that easily translates into biomedical manufacturing. With the right project Innovation Center, increase in education, organization and leadership, we can and we will make Spokane a leader in biosciences, medicines, and technology.”

Said Karlene Hoo, Ph.D., Dean of the Gonzaga University School of Engineering and Applied Science: “Increases in internships, and even in apprenticeships, can only mean a win for the students and for the community. The additional resources that are set aside for federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and others -- to support translational science, so they can move from outside of our laboratories and into products can only yield economic growth, especially in areas that Gonzaga is interested in, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity, robotics automation, advanced materials, and advanced manufacturing.”

Said Lisa Brown, Director of the Washington State Department of Commerce: “We're well poised to take advantage of this, but … I really think we needed the glue that is going to be provided by the CHIPS & Science Act. … This Senator gets it. She gets that this is a national security imperative that is in this bill, that it is a global competitiveness imperative for the United States that is in this bill, but even better – regional competitiveness, so that every part of our state can benefit.”

The press conference was followed by a tour of Altek, Inc., including an assembly line of aerospace parts and a facility producing molten, moldable plastics. B-roll of that tour can be found HERE.

Monday’s event follows the passage of the CHIPS & Science Act, a historic $250 billion investment in U.S. manufacturing and scientific research. This bill -- which was signed into law on August 9 – supercharges America’s domestic semiconductor manufacturing capacity and provides groundbreaking investments in universities aiming to conduct next-generation scientific research, including opportunities for Eastern Washington.

The legislation authorizes funding for 10 new collaborative academia/industry manufacturing centers -- called Manufacturing USA (MUSA) centers -- and encourages new institutes that add to the geographic diversity of the program (currently, there are no MUSAs in the Pacific Northwest). It also calls on the National Science Foundation to establish research centers, called regional innovation engines, dedicated to advancing key technology areas such as advanced manufacturing and energy efficiency. 

The National Science Foundation has already selected 11 different Washington entities to submit proposals for these regional innovation engines,” said Sen. Cantwell. “We think there should be one here on advanced manufacturing as it relates to aerospace. … We think that this will help grow the jobs here and keep our nation competitive in aerospace.”

The Act also authorizes $750 million for universities that are not within the top 100 in terms of Federal R&D for development of research programs, faculty recruitment and professional development, acquisition of scientific instruments, and student research stipends. It also includes a five-year pilot program to enhance partnerships between emerging research institutions, such as Gonzaga University, and institutions that conduct a lot of Federal research.

Sen. Cantwell attended the CHIPS & Science Act signing ceremony with President Biden on Aug. 9. For more than a year, she’s been a main architect and key negotiator in each iteration of this legislation. This past spring, she led a group of more than 100 members of Congress to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the package. In her position as the first female Senator to chair the Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee, she was instrumental in securing the science R&D funding authorizations in the 11th hour of negotiations.