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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane tech hub project misses out in competition for federal funds

The old Triumph Composites factory on the West Plains has been pegged as home for the Inland Northwest Tech Hub, a consortium of businesses, government and schools. The tech hub missed out on receiving federal funds.  (Lakeside)

Local business and government leaders received disappointing news Monday when the White House released its list of 12 groups that will receive millions of dollars to propel aerospace manufacturing that excluded Spokane.

Aerospace industry leaders, venture capitalists, state, local and tribal governments have been collaborating since August of last year as a consortium to compete for federal funds to propel Spokane’s aerospace manufacturing industry onto the global stage.

In response to the news, consortium officials provided a public statement that warned of a grave future if the nation’s dependency on foreign manufacturers is not lessened.

“Within a few years, the Inland Northwest Tech Hub can have prototypes ready for high-rate production, enabling thousands of new domestic manufacturing jobs to lessen our growing reliance on foreign technology and foreign labor,” the statement read. “Missing this opportunity will increase our reliance on foreign labor, threatening our national and economic security. We will be working on every possible opportunity to make new American jobs and supply chains a reality.”

The Spokane consortium, dubbed the Inland Northwest Consortium, included Boeing, Lockheed Martin, NASA, U.S. Air Force, Gonzaga University and the city of Spokane among the 59 members of the Inland Northwest Consortium.

The group went up against around 400 other competitors for a chance to win up to $75 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration as part of its Tech Hubs Program.

The program was created as part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which authorizes $10 billion to be invested into local economies to drive technological innovation and strengthen domestic manufacturing, a White House publication said.

If awarded, funds would have been spent to build out the former Triumph Composite Systems Inc. factory at 1514 S. Flint Road.

The 386,000-square-foot facility in west Spokane would have been known as the American Aerospace Materials Manufacturing Center.

As chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell was an early advocate for the Tech Hub Program. She pledged her commitment to the aerospace manufacturing in the Evergreen State in a statement.

“Spokane, and the Pacific Northwest as whole, is leading the way on next-generation innovation and technology so that America can continue to compete internationally,” she said in a statement. “We… will continue efforts to make sure this tech hub secures resources to scale this facility. I look forward to working with the American Aerospace Materials Manufacturing Center so that Spokane gets funded in future opportunities.”

About two months ago, Jacob Bonwell, CEO of ATC Manufacturing, a company that is leading the charge in the competition, spoke at an event about the efforts of consortium members.

“We spent three months building a business case around this – we’re talking hundreds of pages of deliverables – now we’re in a waiting phase,” Bonwell said. “I think we’ve submitted such a robust deliverable to the EDA that I’d say we have a very high probability of being awarded this.”

Another Inland Northwest group was in the competition and was awarded funds. The Headwater Hub, loosely based in Missoula, received $41 million to upgrade is manufacturing capability of photonic remote sensors. The technology is used for various purposes including topographical mapping and ocean and atmospheric monitoring.

Announced by the Economic Development Administration, the American Aerospace Materials Manufacturing Center will be visited by Alejandra Castillo, assistant secretary of commerce and Eric Smith, program director for the Tech Hubs Program.

Castillo said in a statement she is, “thrilled to visit Spokane to see firsthand how this Hub is not only bolstering America’s competitiveness but will ultimately ensure the industries and jobs of the future start, grow, and remain in Eastern Washington.”