Manufacturing Month celebrates Skagit County’s economic excellence

Manufacturing Month celebrates Skagit County’s economic excellence Main Photo

9 Oct 2023


Every October, the nation celebrates Manufacturing Month, a time to recognize the pivotal role that manufacturing plays in our economy and communities. In Skagit County, Washington, this observance takes on special significance as the region boasts a unique combination of factors that make it a magnet for manufacturing businesses. We sat down with Shaun Gibbs, the Economic Development Manager for Business Recruitment, Retention & Expansion at the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County, to delve into what makes this picturesque county a manufacturing powerhouse and how it contributes to the country's economic growth.

Factors that attract manufacturers to Skagit County

Gibbs spoke about some of the important factors that make Skagit County a great place for manufacturing to thrive:
Strategic Location: Skagit County enjoys a strategic international location. It sits equidistant from Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, Canada, making it an ideal place for businesses looking to tap into domestic and international markets. Additionally, it offers convenient access to international flights, connecting it to Asian and European destinations.
Cost-Competitiveness: Lower tax rates, industrial land, building costs, and median home prices in Skagit County compared to the nearby metropolitan areas to the north and south make it a cost-competitive destination for manufacturing businesses.
Skilled Workforce: Skagit County boasts a vast laborshed of skilled workers at every level, with over 6 million people within a 100-mile radius. This ensures manufacturers can access a highly skilled and diverse talent pool.
Proximity to Educational Institutions: The county's proximity to world-leading research institutions and universities, coupled with agile community colleges that offer workforce training, ensures a continuous pipeline of well-trained talent for manufacturing industries.
Multimodal Transportation: Skagit County enjoys easy access by highway, rail, air, and sea. It is within 90 minutes of four international airports and seaports, reducing transportation bottlenecks and congestion. The presence of a deep-water seaport (Port of Anacortes) and three airports further enhances connectivity.
Utilities and Infrastructure: Skagit County offers comprehensive and competitive utilities, access to renewable energy sources, and high-speed internet connectivity, creating an environment conducive to manufacturing operations.
Community and Quality of Life: The county is known for its diverse, multicultural, and welcoming community, making it an attractive destination for businesses, residents, and visitors. Skagit County offers an enviable quality of life with thriving arts communities, top-notch healthcare services, and abundant retail and cultural amenities.
Spectacular Natural Beauty: Beyond the industrial landscape, Skagit County offers spectacular outdoor recreation opportunities, the gateway to the San Juan Islands and North Cascades National Park.

Thriving manufacturing industries in Skagit County

Gibbs stated that Skagit County has nurtured several thriving manufacturing industries with unique characteristics and advantages:

Aviation and Aerospace: Aviation and aerospace industries, particularly those specializing in composites and specialized tool manufacturing, have flourished in Skagit County. Employers have benefited from their proximity to Boeing in Everett, Washington. This cluster not only supports the growth of the industry but also fosters workforce development in the region.
Maritime and Boat Building: Skagit County's maritime and boat building sectors have also thrived due to their proximity to marine assets and a skilled workforce. This strategic location has given businesses a competitive edge in these sectors.
Agriculture and Value-Added Processing: The county's agricultural industry, centered in the fertile Skagit Valley, has supported food and beverage processing businesses. The proximity to the Valley's abundant produce and skilled workforce has facilitated growth in this sector.

Skagit County's role in the broader manufacturing ecosystem of Washington sate

“Skagit County's infrastructure and workforce have evolved to support various manufacturing activities,” Gibbs said. “Historically an agricultural and resource extraction economy, the region has transitioned to accommodate advanced manufacturing and other industries. Investments in industrial parks and warehouses and access to I-5, BNSF railway, deep-water seaports, and airports have bolstered manufacturing development.”

Moreover, Gibbs said,”Skagit County's Skagit Regional Airport is undergoing improvements and runway expansions, positioning it to handle more cargo-based opportunities. Plans to enhance rail access in the county will further facilitate the movement of goods, not only for distribution within the domestic network but also via deep-water terminals at the Port of Anacortes.” He also said that with a key focus on sustainability, Skagit County is looking toward green industries and renewable energy production and storage, which could create more living wage jobs in the future.

Manufacturing Month in Skagit County is a tribute to the region's unique appeal to manufacturers, driven by its strategic location, cost-competitiveness, skilled workforce, and robust infrastructure. Skagit County's thriving manufacturing industries and contribution to Washington state's manufacturing ecosystem underscore its significance in the manufacturing world. As we celebrate Manufacturing Month, Skagit County's industrial excellence shines as a testament to the strength of American manufacturing.