Cantwell: With Aviation Jobs Program a Success, Now “Aviation is Starting to Hire” in Washington

Cantwell: “This took everything for us to do to save our competitive nature here in the Pacific Northwest, to keep complex, quality metal and plastic parts being assembled and made for aerospace here in Washington state.”

TACOMA, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, met with workers at Tacoma aviation manufacturer Tool Gauge Machine Works, Inc. to discuss the benefits of the company’s $619,775 grant from the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program (AMJP) that saved 38 jobs and helped Tool Gauge survive the pandemic. Senator Cantwell led the effort to secure funding for the AMJP in the American Rescue Plan that passed last March.

“We [knew] that when the downturn of aviation demand happened during COVID, that we were going to need to do something to help stabilize the supply chain. We knew that when our economy started to rebound and that aerospace demand started to return, that if we had lost these jobs…we might not ever get them back. And with this level of critical skill, we knew that our region could not afford to lose one more aviation worker,” said Cantwell.

Now, Cantwell says, “aviation is starting to hire, and we’re thankful these programs made it through this incredibly difficult COVID period for all of us.”

Statewide, through all three rounds of AMJP, a total of $57.2 million in grants have now been awarded to 68 Washington state aviation manufacturers, estimated to protect 3,150 aerospace jobs by providing funding to retain, rehire, or recall skilled employees. In total, $8,348,836 was awarded to 6 Pierce County aviation businesses and saved a total of 384 high-skilled jobs in Tacoma, Fife, Sumner, and Bonney Lake.

“Because we had the grant, we had the workforce, and we were able to save our key-skilled positions. We were in a great position to take on that transfer work. And the thing about aerospace work is, once it goes away, it never comes back…So it was critical for us, and it’s going to help us grow back out,” said Jim Lee, General Manager of Tool Gauge.

The health of the aerospace supply chain is critical to the U.S. aviation industry as a whole. Nationwide, pre-pandemic levels showed the aerospace industry employed about 2.19 million jobs with 58% attributed to supply chain jobs. Prior to COVID-19, Washington state supported 130,000 direct aerospace employees and produced 1,400 aircraft and unmanned aerial systems, accounting for more than $50 billion product exports annually.

“Thanks to programs, like the one that the Senator helped us with, [we] have kept people here…I can't believe in a moment what would have happened if I would have lost my job…So I'm very, very thankful for this program,” said Teresita Quiroz, Tool Gauge employee.

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the aviation manufacturing, maintenance, repair and overhaul industries. More than 100,000 supply chain jobs have already been lost since the outbreak of the pandemic, including 30,000 jobs in Washington State.

Last March, Cantwell wrote Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg asking the agency to quickly implement the program. In June and again in July, Senator Cantwell urged Washington state aerospace manufacturers to retain their employees by applying to the AMJP program before the application deadline.

A recording of the event livestream is available HERE and a transcript of Cantwell’s remarks is available HERE.

A list of all Pierce County grant recipients is available HERE, Snohomish County is available HERE, King County is available HERE, and Spokane County is available HERE.

A list of all AMJP recipients can be found HERE.