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The Port has secured a $125,000 workforce development grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce to help local solar panel manufacturer Pando Innovations, LLC (Itek Energy) streamline operations, increase efficiency and reduce costs. In support of Itek Energy’s planned expansion to Bellingham’s downtown waterfront, the grant will fund training for up to 125 workers, with 40 of those targeted as new hires.
Itek Energy has seen tremendous growth over the past several years, recently purchasing two acres of property and a 48,000 square foot warehouse from the Port to develop a new manufacturing plant near Bellingham’s downtown waterfront. The workforce development grant will improve employee work skills and make a more efficient use of the larger facilities into which Itek Energy is going to move.
“Itek Energy is a terrific local success story” said Port Commission President Dan Robbins. “Each year they have expanded their workforce creating new job opportunities for the citizens of Whatcom County. We were pleased to help Itek find a site for their new manufacturing plant which keeps them in Whatcom County and we expect the workforce development grant will help them continue to grow as they transition into this new facility.”
Itek Energy currently employs 85 full-time workers and plans to hire up to an additional 40 employees after the new manufacturing plant located at 800 Cornwall Avenue is up and running later this year.
“Encouraging Itek Energy to expand in our state shows how strategic investments in clean technology help strengthen communities by investing in local workers, helping them build lifelong skills,” said Washington Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “Workforce development grants are an effective tool for creating and retaining high-skill advanced manufacturing jobs that will keep Washington companies competitive in the global marketplace.”
Impact Washington, a nonprofit organization specializing in training small manufacturing companies will implement the workforce training program to improve work skills in Lean, continuous improvement, quality management, customized production skills and supervisory skills training. Project team members include Northwest Workforce Council, Bellingham Technical College and the Port.
“We look forward to implementing this training program” said Itek Chief Operating Officer David McCarty. “This process has been well documented to increase manufacturing capacity, strengthen supply chains, attract investment and create new opportunities for growing markets and developing new high-technology jobs.”
“Skills enhancement for our local workforce is essential to retain and grow manufacturing jobs” said Port Economic Development Specialist Dodd Snodgrass. “As the Associate Development Organization for Whatcom County, we support our workforce development partners to meet the needs of industry.”
With over 300 manufacturing companies and 10,000 employees, Whatcom County produces about $2 billion worth of manufactured products that are shipped and sold around the world each year.