Manufacturing’s booming in the Northwest, as demand grows worldwide for the region’s products. “What we’ve seen is a massive investment in manufacturing—whether in food products, semiconductors, lumber, or tissue paper,” says Alex LaBeau, president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. That’s true at Sun Valley Bronze, an expanding maker of high-end, handmade hardware. “We’ve added 10,000 new square feet to our location in Bellevue, Idaho,” says Aimee Commons, creative director.
It signals a big change from five years ago. “From 2011 to 2012 we had a downturn, but in 2012 we started an upturn,” says Del Stevens, president and CEO of Dura Industries in Portland. “That’s when we started doing samples for the Smithsonian.” As in painted aluminum samples for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., now clad in 3,600 Dura Industries panels. “We got national attention and a lot of architects called us,” he says. “So we now have several new finishes—one’s on a 42-story tower in Portland, and another’s on a 10-story in Portland.”
In Springfield, Oregon, 9Wood took advantage of 2012’s slowdown to add sales representatives—and it’s paying off. “The ceiling is a surface that architects are discovering—it’s the third surface,” says Michael Roeman, marketing manager at the ceiling and wall paneling company. “It’s become another canvas to do decorative things, and for acoustics.”
Acoustics is a hot topic at Modular Arts in Seattle, too. “We’ve been working on various ways to control sound in spaces, with our patented, magnetic T-Grid ceiling tiles that create seamless sculptural overhead landscapes,” says Don Kaump, president. “We’re pursuing both sound absorption and sound diffusion—and in some cases, light.” It all adds up to a regional economy that’s finally put the Great Recession in the rear-view mirror.