Gov. Jay Inslee today visited Jorgensen Forge in Tukwila to unveil a new “Defense Data Tool” to help businesses that contract with the U.S. Department of Defense anticipate and respond to changes in defense spending. In September 2014, Inslee launched the Washington Military Alliance to help businesses, service members and communities prepare for the economic impacts of federal sequestration and military downsizing. This tool is one of the products developed in response to their efforts.
“We are showcasing innovative public-private partnerships that are helping our state’s defense companies successfully diversify beyond Department of Defense contracts into more private sector work,” said Governor Jay Inslee. “This tool gives us exciting new forecasting capacity that will allow economic developers to work upstream to support companies like Jorgensen in advance of having to pull the fire alarm.”
The Defense Data Tool identifies specific industries and occupations that benefit from DoD contracts in Washington state and models changes in those spending levels down to individual counties. The model will allow local officials and business leaders to effectively prepare for the impacts of reduced military spending. The tool was developed in collaboration with Inslee’s lead military sector advisor, local economic development leaders, and members of the Washington Military Alliance. A $500,000 grant from the DoD Office of Economic Adjustment helped fund the effort.
Jorgensen Forge is a machining company that contracts heavily with the Navy but has since started expanding into the aerospace industry. CEO Mike Jewell says this new tool is essential for companies like his because it allows them to anticipate reduced contracting opportunities and retool their workers or seek business elsewhere.
“The state’s foresight in actively planning for potential base closures and lower levels of military spending is helping companies like ours transform to survive what might otherwise be a potentially devastating business setback,” said Jewell. “These efforts are key elements of our business plan and our ability to fulfill new orders and continue growing in the aerospace industry.”
Jewell says Jorgensen’s expansion into aerospace was a very strategic decision. Jorgensen was one of six defense manufacturing supply chain companies to participate in a pilot program a year ago with Impact WA that resulted in “lean” manufacturing efforts. In 2015, the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County (WDC) helped facilitate a Master Machinist training program in partnership with South Seattle College and Jorgensen, funded through a $100,000 grant from the State Department of Commerce’s Washington WorkStart Program.
Inslee was joined at Jorgensen’s manufacturing plant by Commerce Director Brian Bonlender, Associate Director and head of Military and Defense Sector Economic Development Kristine Reeves, and members of the Washington Military Alliance.
“Our new Defense Data Tool provides detailed mapping of the specific industries and occupations that make up our defense manufacturing supply chain. Armed with that data, we can more effectively identify and target investments, such as the WorkStart funding for Jorgensen’s lean manufacturing system, to address potentially larger impacts of DoD downsizing in our communities,” said Reeves.
“The WorkStart program shows us just how well our education system and local companies can work together,” says Marlena Sessions, chief executive officer for the WDC. “This win-win collaboration between public and private sectors demonstrates a workforce development partnership at its best.”
“Finding and addressing business challenges and opportunities from an industry sector perspective is a key pillar of our strategy for developing communities and growing jobs. It works because we embed with the private sector in our largest industries, like the military and defense sector,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “Government leaders, educators, industry organizations and employers are pulling together on the same rope to benefit the people who live and work in their communities, and our overall state economy.”
Washington’s military and defense community supports over $13 billion dollars in annual procurement, over 1,900 businesses across the state, and represents nearly 3% of the state’s GDP. It is the state’s second largest public employer, with 112,560 active duty, reserve, guard and civilian personnel. Washington is home to over 540,000 veterans including 71,000 retirees and 88,674 military families.