Citing his work on a number of key issues, the Aerospace Futures Alliance has named Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn) its Legislator of the Year for 2013. The award was presented during the eighth annual Governor's Aerospace Summit in Everett on Wednesday.
Fain is the first recipient of the award to be serving a first term.
"Sen. Fain has been a true leader for Washington's aerospace industry," said Linda Lanham, AFA's executive director. "We appreciate the work he has done not only in Olympia but throughout the Puget Sound; his willingness to personally connect with companies in our region to learn about the issues that are important to them has been invaluable."
In presenting him the award, the AFA cited a number of legislative issues Fain worked closely on during the 2013 session. As Senate Floor Leader, Fain helped secure passage of a bill to streamline tax collection for commuter air carriers such as Kenmore Air.
Fain also helped negotiate a state budget that re-prioritized higher education – including $18 million in new funding for engineering students – and allows students enrolled in Renton Technical College's machinists program to be eligible for loans made through the aerospace training program.
"It's humbling to be able to support the companies and professionals that make our state's aerospace industry the best in the country," Fain said. "Particularly as a first-term legislator, it's an honor to be recognized by the AFA."
Orion Aerospace lauded
Several companies were also recognized by the AFA for excellence in their respective fields. Fain pointed to Orion Aerospace – which was named an Aerospace Company of the Year at the conference – as an example of a local company that is helping grow Washington's aerospace industry. Orion recently built a new manufacturing facility in Auburn.
"When you talk about aerospace in Washington state everyone thinks of Boeing, but the industry runs much deeper than that," Fain said. "Companies like Orion provide world-class products to airlines around the country and family-wage jobs here in the Puget Sound. Orion takes this local commitment one step further by being a leader in providing employment and training opportunities to individuals with developmental disabilities. We are blessed to have them here in Auburn."
Maintaining Washington's status as a global leader in aerospace will require continued consideration from the Legislature and government at all levels, according to Fain. He said that a move made last year to exempt labor and materials involved in improving private aircraft from the state's sales tax is an example of how the state can be a partner for the industry.
"By charging sales tax on improving private planes when other states weren't, Washington was essentially mandating that the work go elsewhere. By leveling the playing field we've enabled companies to do business here and we'll actually increase state revenues in the long run," Fain said.
The AFA is the state's largest aerospace group, representing companies from across the state and advocating for their interests on public policy in Olympia and Washington D.C.