Punctuating 50 years of Kaiser Aluminum Corp. operating in Spokane County, a new economic study attributes one out of 20 jobs in the county to the company.
The Houston-based aluminum maker, with 2,600 people on its payroll in Spokane, also generates an annual economic impact of $1.36 billion in production, wages and sales, according to Chase Economics in Tacoma.
“Kaiser Aluminum’s relative economic impact on those communities where its facilities are located is significant,” said President Robert Chase. “This is especially true in Spokane.”
The Chase report was commissioned by Kaiser for release this week to commemorate a half-century since founder Henry Kaiser paid $458,000 to lease the Mead smelter and Trentwood flat-products rolling mill from the post-war government.
The current chairman and chief executive officer, George Haymaker Jr., is scheduled to speak at noon today at the Ridpath Hotel. He will unveil his vision of the aluminum industry of the future and its importance to the local economy.
Among other things, Haymaker will point to Kaiser’s previously announced plans to invest $102 million to modernize the Mead carbon bake furnaces and to expand Trentwood’s heat treat production.
In addition, Chase said, Kaiser contributions to the county’s economy include:
Nearly 12 percent of total manufacturing jobs, with average wages and benefits of $62,800, three times the earnings for the average Spokane worker.
Indirect creation of 8,600 jobs among other businesses and government offices.
Exports of $365 million in 1995 to international customers.
Analysts don’t dispute the findings, but point out that in the past, when Kaiser employed more than 4,000 people, it likely accounted for a greater number of jobs and total economic growth.
Kaiser in recent years has trimmed its work force to remain competitive in a market that suffers from a glut of low-cost aluminum produced overseas.
“If you lost one or more Kaiser plants, you’d be in a whole lot of trouble,” said Fred Walsh, Spokane labor market analyst for the state Employment Security Department.
“It’s not just good salary, good benefits and long-term job stability, but these people send their kids to college, buy a house, and make longterm investments in the economy.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo Graphic: Kaiser Aluminum’s impact on Spokane
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