Manufacturers in Eastern Washington, North Idaho, and Montana are getting a boost in support through a well-known organization with a new name and expanded mission.
For the last 10 years, the Inland Northwest Aerospace Consortium (INWAC) has led efforts to connect and promote the aerospace supply chain along the Northwest’s I-90 Corridor. Under the leadership of a committed board of directors, collaborative efforts among local companies, economic development agencies and other stakeholders established the I-90 Aerospace Corridor as a highly regarded supply chain for the industry.
Now the organization is making strides to support regional manufacturers in aerospace and other in-demand markets including space, energy, and medical devices. Rebranded as Northwest I-90 Manufacturing Alliance or NIMA (pronounced knee-muh), the trade association is also expanding its service offerings to better meet the needs expressed by local employers.
Leading Workforce Development
A key new area of focus will be championing workforce development efforts. This work includes programming that helps companies train and upskill employees as well as initiatives that plug in students, young adults and career changers to manufacturing career opportunities.
Earlier this year, NIMA secured a $200,000 grant from the Washington Department of Commerce to renovate a machine and wood shop at East Valley High School in Spokane Valley. This project was the first phase in establishing a fully functioning, self-supporting machine shop to be run by students who will learn technical skills like welding and machining, in addition to other aspects of running a business — such as accounting, sales, and quality control.
Increasing Industry Connections
In October, NIMA partnered with the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce and CAMPS to launch the Leadership Accelerator Forum. The forum provides a platform for company owners, CEOs, and other executives to address key challenges, discuss new opportunities, and share best practices with their peers. The group will meet periodically throughout the year with the ultimate goal of growing the manufacturing sector along the I-90 Corridor.
The kick-off meeting included a jam-packed room full of leaders from varying-sized companies with diverse capabilities serving a multitude of industries. Through meetings like this, participants can identify new resources, connect with potential partners, and find new local customers. Discussions will also drive future NIMA programs.
I-90 companies weathered the aerospace downturn in 2020 better than many suppliers in other regions because they were largely already diversified, serving multiple market sectors. The ability to quickly shift attention to other industries minimized lay-offs and shutdowns during an uncertain and stressful time.
This lesson in diversification and resilience was a driving force in the decision to expand INWAC’s mission from solely serving aerospace to supporting other precision manufacturing sectors as well. Offering companies assistance in diversifying their product mix, connecting them with resources to obtain certifications, and collectively marketing the l-90 supply chain to new and growing industries, provides business opportunities and economies of scale to the small and medium-sized shops that dot the landscape across Eastern Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
Driving Innovation and Supporting Economic Development
With the Chips and Science Act creating opportunities to expand domestic production and innovation in key industries, NIMA has taken an active role in projects designed to secure funding for the region. Two of these projects have been submitted for consideration under the Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs program. One would establish a center for advanced composite manufacturing and research for aerospace, while the other would focus on growing the biotech ecosystem with a focus on sterile therapeutics.
Representing the existing manufacturing ecosystem, NIMA lends its support to proposed projects like these and serves as a key resource for attracting new manufacturing businesses to the region.
“Showing the breadth and depth of the I-90 supply chain to companies looking to relocate or expand gives our EDC counterparts a boost in their business attraction efforts,” Mark Norton, NIMA board chair explains.
“As new businesses set up shop here, NIMA is well positioned to help connect them with resources and other local suppliers, which creates a winning proposition for all.”
For more information about NIMA, visit www.nimalliance.org or contact us at email@example.com.