State’s top aerospace adviser leaves Olympia to join WSU

Washington’s aerospace policy director, Alex Pietsch, is leaving Olympia to join Washington State University as an industry liaison this fall.

Pietsch’s priority will be to foster close ties between the university’s Everett campus and area businesses.

The next big challenge for Washington’s aerospace industry is making sure there are enough new workers to fill companies’ needs, Pietsch said. “Boeing has said it might need 31,000 new workers” by 2020 to make up for retirements and regular turnover in its Puget Sound metro area workforce.

Growing tech companies, such as Amazon, also are hungry for more workers.

Pietsch will join the school Sept. 10. He’ll be based in Seattle. The job pays $190,000, according to the school.

Bob Drewel, interim chancellor of WSU North Puget Sound, said Pietsch is “an exceptional hire” at a critical time in the school’s short history.

WSU has significantly expanded its presence in Snohomish County. Last year, it was given management of an eight-school consortium that offers courses at Everett University Center. WSU is building a new four-story home for the group, which includes Everett Community College, the University of Washington — Bothell, Western Washington University, Central Washington University, Hope International University, Eastern Washington University and The Evergreen State College.

WSU, as the consortium’s lead school, has been expanding its course offerings. The latest budget included money to add technology courses at Everett.

“The majority of Alex’s time will be in Everett, making sure our programs are preparing students for the economy of the future,” Drewel said.

It isn’t the first time the two have worked together. During the past decade, the pair worked closely advocating for Washington’s aerospace industry.

And it’s not Pietsch’s first time at WSU. He graduated from the school in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in history and communications. After that, he worked as a television news reporter in smaller markets, including five years in Yakima.

He left journalism for corporate communications in Seattle in 2000. He got involved in the aerospace industry after 2001, when he became economic-development director for the city of Renton, where Boeing builds its 737 jetliners.

In 2012, Gov. Chris Gregoire hired him to run the newly created Governor’s Office of Aerospace. His role expanded under Gregoire’s successor, Gov. Jay Inslee, who created other industry sector leads, which Pietsch oversaw at the state’s Department of Commerce.

At Commerce, he wrote the state’s strategy for encouraging Washington’s aerospace industry. His plan “will help guide our work for some time to come,” said Brian Bonlender, the department’s director.

As part of that job, he helped shape the state’s effort to lobby Boeing to build its 777X jetliner in Everett, which the company committed to doing last year.

Commerce will begin “actively looking for a replacement” in the coming weeks, Bonlender said.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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