Washington State Announces Supplementary Grant for GU-Led Tech Hub

As plans for an aerospace manufacturing test bed advance, Commerce Director Mike Fong looks to Gonzaga to provide an "academic pipeline" of skilled, qualified graduates.

Gonzaga students explore more sustainable options for seating on Boeing aircrafts.
March 28, 2024
Gonzaga University News Service

As Gonzaga University and a consortium of Inland Northwest partners are poised to launch a world-class aerospace manufacturing test-bed, the state of Washington is standing by to provide major funding to help make the project a reality.

Washington Department of Commerce Director Mike Fong visited Gonzaga, meeting with a number of Inland Northwest consortium members to announce a $500,000 matching grant to support the development of the American Aerospace Materials Manufacturing Center (AAMMC) should the project receive funding by the federal Economic Development Agency (EDA) later this year. The consortium was named a Regional Tech Hub by the EDA in October 2023, one of 31 hubs nationwide vying for up to $70 million in start-up capital.

Fong praised the work of the consortium, led by GU and Lakeside Companies of Post Falls, and consisting of nearly 50 industry leaders, educational institutions, and state, local and tribal governments. The Tech Hub has received widespread support from members of Congress, legislators, and civic leaders across Washington and Idaho. The AAMMC is slated to occupy the former Triumph Composite Systems building, a 386,000-square-foot repurposed manufacturing facility near Spokane International Airport. The new Center is designed to be a testbed for the evolution and commercialization of the domestic aerospace supply chain for the next generation of aviation composite materials, a field that heretofore has been dominated by foreign concerns.

“I think the most important thing when it comes to these complex projects is just how well the partnerships and collaboration comes together among these stakeholders,” said Fong. “When you have that alignment and get all those synergies together you can make big things happen.”

Thayne McCulloh and Mike Fong
Commerce Director Mike Fong discusses the Tech Hub with Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh.

“The support of the Washington Department of Commerce is a critical component of this initiative to create the future of aerospace innovation and advance the economic vitality of our region,” said Thayne McCulloh, president of Gonzaga University. “The AAMMC consortium represents industry, research, education, government, and workforce, all collaborating to achieve high-rate production goals for the next generation of advanced aerospace manufacturing. With Commerce support, this partnership is poised to meet the demands of industry and increase economic prosperity in a region well-positioned to support future growth and development.”

While on the GU campus, Fong noted the importance of higher education to the success of the AAMMC.

“This Tech Hub is going to need a feeder system for workforce development into the future jobs that we hope this testbed will create and launch in the region,” Fong said.

“Gonzaga and the other academic institutions involved in this effort are going to be absolutely crucial in developing, credentialing, and programming an academic pipeline for students that can work their way into these opportunities with the skills and technical know-how to deliver on the realization of this vision.”

The Commerce Department’s visit comes on the heels of a visit from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in February, who praised consortium members for a collaboration expected to bring workforce development, jobs, and prosperity to the region.

“The entire eastern section of our state is developing an advancement of the high-tech economy,” Inslee said, “and this is one of the central pillars of that development.”

McCulloh echoed that focus on workforce development, noting that it is a major component of the Tech Hub application and that the various partners involved are working together “so that we can ensure that we’re meeting the demands of industry with a workforce that’s been appropriately trained for the next generation of manufacturing.”

“The organizational, educational, civic, business and cultural resources of this area are unmatched,” said McCulloh. “This incredible group of partners and innovators is perfectly poised to create the future, and it begins right here in the Inland Northwest.”

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