EVERETT — A dozen Snohomish County aviation manufacturing companies will receive more than $19 million in grants from the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In all, the job-saving program, which is funded through the American Rescue Plan Act, awarded $482 million to 313 aviation manufacturers in 37 states and Puerto Rico. Of that total, 32 companies in Washington received $41 million. Statewide, the grants are expected to save about 2,280 jobs.
The $3 billion Biden administration initiative could help save more than 22,000 aviation manufacturing jobs across the U.S. The grants can be used to pay half the wages of specific employees for up to six months. In return, the business must document spending and agree not to furlough or lay off those workers during the six-month period.
Commercial Aircraft Interiors, which has been refurbishing the interiors of commercial and military airplanes in Arlington for 20 years, learned this week that it qualified for a $187,896 employment protection grant that will help save 14 jobs.
“We’re grateful that we were able to receive this,” said Carlos Veliz, the firm’s business strategist.
In May 2019, with orders rolling in, the company hoped to boost its roster of 80 employees, Veliz said. It had recently expanded and relocated from five smaller buildings to one 180,000-square-foot Arlington building.
When the COVID-19 pandemic extinguished air travel last year, Commercial Aircraft Interiors laid off 66% of its workforce, letting go 53 workers.
“At the peak of COVID, we got down to 27 employees,” Veliz said. To tighten the belt even further, the company vacated the Arlington warehouse and relocated to Burlington in Skagit County. It now employs 46.
“We are seeing things come back on line. But it’s going to take time for the airline industry to come out of this, and there could be another slip,” Veliz said.
“With aviation manufacturing not targeted to recover until well into 2022, at the earliest, the aviation protection program will help in hiring back some of those workers and staving off further layoffs at a critical time,” said U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell who led the effort to secure aviation manufacturing funding in the American Rescue Plan which passed in March.
“In Washington state, an estimated 2,280 jobs will be protected as a result of this funding, from small machine shops to larger suppliers of aircraft components,” Cantwell said.
U.S Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, and U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, a Republican from Kansas, authored the bipartisan bill on which the Aviation Jobs Protection Program is based.
“For the past year and a half, our aviation industry workers have helped keep this economy moving, including by supporting the delivery of lifesaving medical equipment and vaccines,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in an agency statement. “The funding will save jobs and support the workers who have supported us throughout the pandemic.”
Buttigieg noted that of the 313 grant recipients, 188 had fewer than 100 employees.
The nation’s aerospace industry laid off an estimated 100,000 workers last year and furloughed another 220,000 due to the COVID-19-induced downturn in air travel.
Elliott Black, who directs the aviation jobs protection program, visited Snohomish County in August and heard from aviation company executives, including Veliz of Commercial Aircraft Interiors, and union representatives at a roundtable discussion held at Everett Community College.
Washington is home to more than 1,500 aerospace companies, including some 200 in Snohomish County.
The results of a second round of funding are expected to be announced later this year.
Snohomish County recipients:
• Walter Dorwin Teague Associates in Everett will receive $1.4 million, protecting an estimated 43 jobs.
• Onamac Industries will receive $532,532, protecting 31 jobs.
• Valence will receive $359,086, protecting 20 jobs.
• Precision Fuel Components will receive $39,400, protecting three jobs.
• Electroimpact will receive $4.1 million, protecting 109 jobs.
• King Machine will receive $184,511, protecting 14 jobs.
• Sealth Aero Marine will receive $246,191, protecting 10 jobs.
• Senior Operations will receive $10.9 million, protecting 630 jobs.
• Commercial Aircraft Interiors, formerly located in Arlington, will receive $187,896, protecting 14 jobs.
• Safran Cabin Materials in Marysville will receive $755,619, protecting 125 jobs.
• L&E Tubing, with locations in Lynnwood and Kent, will receive $154,332, protecting nine jobs.