Finding a niche in aerospace: Washington State businesses offering …

Aug. 05–It’s just after dawn when members of Washington’s delegation to the Farnborough Air Show roll out of bed in their London hotels. Though their internal clocks, still set on Pacific Daylight Time, tell them it’s time to go to bed instead of time to rise, they ignore those diurnal inconsistencies and ready themselves for what promises to be an exhausting day.

They’re due to gather for the daily 6 a.m. delegation breakfast to discuss their strategies for the day.

They are on a mission to win more business for one of the Evergreen State’s most important industries, aerospace.

It’s an industry that directly employs more than 92,000 people in Washington and creates thousands more jobs indirectly.

But in recent years, it’s an industry that’s become more competitive both internationally and within the United States. Boeing’s decision three years ago, for instance, to build its first final assembly plant for commercial airliners outside the Pacific Northwest in South Carolina is a sign that Washington’s preeminence in the aerospace industry isn’t assured.

Boeing rival Airbus’ recent announcement that it will build a final assembly factory for its airliners in Mobile, Ala., is yet another signal that the industry is looking for less expensive, alternate sites for aerospace manufacturing.

That competitive situation was a prime motivator behind the Washington aerospace industry’s and state and local government’s decision to mount a big sales effort at early July’s Farnborough show, said Alex Pietsch, the governor’s new aerospace coordinator.

As salesman-in-chief for Washington’s aerospace industry, he backed up the governor and industry leaders’ efforts to tell Washington’s story to the aerospace industry at the world’s largest gathering of aerospace industry producers and contractors.

Pierce County aerospace suppliers and economic development officials were part of that effort at the Farnborough show, named for an airport just outside London where the show is held every other year. Farnborough alternates with the Paris Air Show as the biggest event of the year for the industry.

Three Pierce County aerospace suppliers, MetalTech of Sumner, a metal tooling and production shop; Globe Machine, a Tacoma-based composite materials machinery maker, and Service Steel Aerospace, a Fife distributor of aerospace steel and titanium, accompanied local economic development officials to the show.

Those officials were Susan Suess, senior vice-president of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County and Denise Dyer, Pierce County’s economic development director.

For Suess and several of the Pierce County aerospace companies the recent mission was their first trip to Europe for the aerospace show.

By all accounts, the trip was no junket. Those who went on the mission said they worked dawn to late in the evening meeting with prospective customers and talking with aerospace contractors about their needs.

“It was the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life,” said TJ Richards, MetalTech’s general manager. “I’ll have to go back someday to see London.”

“We had meetings nonstop,” said Robert Edmondson, MetalTech’s corporate accounts and business development manager.


Here was the daily air show routine: after the early morning breakfast, said Suess, the delegation boarded the London subway to a station where they caught a train to near the airport. They then took a shuttle bus to the air show site.

Once at the air show, they met with others among the 1,400 exhibitors either in private areas at the Washington state stand or in common areas at the show.

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