[By Nevonne McDaniels, The Wenatchee World Staff Writer]

Wenatchee Valley College and Liberty Orchards, home of Aplets & Cotlets candy confections in Cashmere, Wash., were recognized by the Association of Washington Business (AWB) as part of its cross-state bus tour in support of the manufacturing industry and the jobs that go with it.

This is the fifth year for the AWB’s Manufacturing Week tour, aimed at highlighting the importance of the 305,000 manufacturing jobs in the state and, this year, calling attention to the state’s goal of doubling that number in the next decade.

The Legislature in April unanimously passed House Bill 1170, which looks to build economic strength through manufacturing, including boosting jobs in the industry as well as the number of small manufacturing businesses and the number of manufacturing businesses owned by women and people of color.

“It’s an ambitious goal and achieving it will require a concerted effort to ensure the state has a trained and educated workforce and competitive tax and regulatory climate,” AWB President Kris Johnson said.

Lawmakers also need to prioritize infrastructure improvements, protect the state’s low-cost energy — one of the state’s core competitive advantages — make it easier to comply with regulations and continually benchmark the state’s tax rates to ensure competitiveness, he said.

Stops in Chelan County covered many of his talking points. Wenatchee Valley College provides technical job training. Chelan County PUD’s Rocky Reach Dam generates low-cost hydropower. Liberty Orchards, Cashmere’s candy manufacturer, employs 50 to 100 people, depending on the season.

The bus tour culminated at the 2021 Manufacturing Summit in Spokane, and the presentation of the year’s Manufacturing Excellence Awards.

The AWB is the state’s chamber of commerce and its manufacturing and technology association.