February 01, 2021

Kilmer, Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding Celebrate New Federal Investment

Following Kilmer and Community Calls for Assistance, U.S. Economic Development Administration Delivers $447,500 Federal Grant

Port Townsend, WA – Today, Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) announced that the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding (NWSWB) was successfully awarded a U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Public Works and Economic Adjustment grant to purchase training equipment for its new classroom building. The $447,500 federal grant, delivered by the EDA, will help the NWSWB address critical shortages of marine technicians by developing an accredited hands-on training program to teaching marine systems. Training will include a focus on electrical, corrosion, plumbing, diesel and outboard engines, heating and cooling, hydraulics and steering and propulsion.

“On the Olympic Peninsula and throughout our region a shortage of skilled workers can be a barrier to growth for local employers,” said. Rep. Kilmer. “By investing in this project, the federal government will help provide the equipment needed to train workers and meet the need for experienced maritime technicians in the community. I’m confident that this partnership and collaboration will help create higher-paying jobs, attract private investment, and advance economic resiliency throughout the region. I’m thrilled to support NWSWB.”

“On April 5th the next class of 18 Marine Systems students starts in our brand-new building dedicated to the program, so the timing on this grant couldn’t have been better. This grant funds equipment so that each student can practice and master hands-on competencies in each of the disciplines. This need for one piece of equipment per student is even more pronounced during COVID,” said Betsy Davis, Executive Director, Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. “Kevin Ritz, the school’s Marine Systems Lead Instructor, nationally recognized for his expertise in marine electrical and corrosion issues, developed the new 6-month program from scratch through continuous conversations with employers and others in the marine industry. It is designed so graduates will hit the ground running when they arrive in the workplace. The strength of the local marine trades helps draw students to the school, and the school helps provide trained technicians to fuel the work of local businesses. The synergy is powerful. We couldn’t have received this grant without broad community support, including a letter from the Jefferson County Commissioners documenting our collaboration and a grant from the First Federal Community Foundation for the match portion of this project. We are incredibly grateful.”

Located in the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone, the project aligns with EDA’s priority for Workforce Development and Manufacturing, by providing highly skilled workers for boat building, ship building, and other businesses in the marine trades sector. A shortage of such skilled workers is a barrier to growth for this sector on the Olympic Peninsula.

A 2018 study commissioned by the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association found that the marine trades sector provides $275.5 million in direct business revenue and 1,154 direct jobs with an average salary of $47,000 in Jefferson County. The deep-water port in Port Angeles is a key component of the Clallam County economy as well. Maritime trades jobs in Clallam County average $49,000 annually. Growth of the marine trades sector and the full-time, high-paying jobs has been identified by economic development leaders as an important component in the efforts to recover from the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the tourism economy which has historically provided approximately 20% of area jobs.

The CARES Act provides EDA with $1.5 billion for economic development assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.

In addition to Rep. Kilmer’s support, the grant application was also backed by State Senator Kevin Van De Wege (24th LD), State Representative Steve Tharinger (24th LD), State Representative Mike Chapman (24th LD), the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, the North Olympic Development Council, the State of Washington Department of Commerce, the Port Townsend Shipwright Co-Op, and SAFE Boats International (SAFE).