Washington Trade Stories

Washington state is the most trade-supported economy in the nation, meaning that global trade policy impacts our state more than any other. We need policies and investments at the local, state and federal level to help our companies, especially small businesses like those profiled below, excel and improve their international competitiveness, creating jobs and prosperity for all our state’s residents.

Sterling Hill Farms Video

Sterling Hill Farms proudly exports potatoes to Canada and the Middle East – but they have room to grow. This Skagit Valley employer hopes to benefit its community and workers through trade.

Hilleberg the Tentmaker

Hilleberg the Tentmaker exports tents to ten countries from its Redmond facility. These exports support nine employees who depend upon strong international trade relationships.

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Hilleberg the Tentmaker was founded in 1971 by Bo Hilleberg, a Swedish adventurer at heart. His daughter, Petra, brought Hilleberg’s famous tunnel tents to the United States, right here in Redmond, where they now handle all sales outside of Europe. From Redmond they export approximately 30% of sales, and have retailers or distributors in 10 countries including Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and India; in addition, they sell to many other countries via direct sales channels. Seeing a recent surge in demand from the Asia-Pacific region, Hilleberg just opened a distributor in China. In Redmond, Hilleberg has nine full-time employees and estimates that three of those jobs have been created by international demand. Petra Hilleberg stresses the importance of trade, and how making it easier for small businesses to export internationally adds volume and jobs to our local economy.

Norfil Video

Aerospace parts producer, Norfil, knows that it operates within an international industry. This business needs good trade policy to break down barriers that hinder international market access and relationships.

Coldstream Farms

Coldstream Farms, home to 1,250 cows, exports dairy all around the world through Darigold’s co-op. This local farm expects sales would increase if export barriers were lower.

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Jeff and Vickie Rainey started Coldstream Farms in 1978, and today their enterprise has grown to be a 1200 acre farm with 1250 cows. Located in Deming, the dairy farm is part of the Darigold co-op, which handles the export of their products. Jeff firmly believes that if given the chance through more favorable trade environments, U.S. dairies would be the most competitive in the world. The U.S. dairy industry already exports 15% of their product, and that number could be much higher if trade barriers were reduced, especially in emerging markets. As the middle class grows in developing economies, more and more people are demanding high-quality protein sources, such as dairy and consumer products made from dairy like whey protein. U.S. dairies can meet this demand if given fair access to those markets through new, high-standard free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

WaterTectonics Video

Everett’s WaterTectonics has grown from 4 to 60 employees because of international expansion. They hope to expand the need for skilled jobs through high-standard trade agreements.

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL), headquartered in Pullman, works to ensure safe and reliable delivery of electric power. With critical infrastructure in more than 147 countries, it needs beneficial trade agreements to thrive.

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Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL), headquarterd in Pullman, partners with customers around the world to ensure safe, reliable, and economical delivery of electric power. SEL designs, manufactures, and supports a complete line of products and services ranging from generator and transmission protection to distribution automation and control systems. The company is 100% employee owned and has 4,000 employees. Much of SEL’s growth is due to its ability to sell products internationally to markets with a growing need for safer, more reliable electric power.

SEL has designed solutions for critical infrastructure in more than 147 countries. Burdensome tariffs SEL often faces in foreign markets prevent it from being as competitive as it could be, but trade agreements can help it compete by promoting free, flat, fair and open markets. Trade agreements would be particularly beneficial to the growing company. SEL’s Government Affairs Representative, Larry Camm, says “SEL currently operates in countries around the world including Australia, Canada, Mexico, Singapore and Vietnam. Having increased access to these markets and others in the Asia-Pacific region would help the company to continue to grow.”

SAFE Boats International

Based in Bremerton and Tacoma, SAFE Boats manufactures and exports police and military vessels to over 50 countries. With 40% of their sales dependent on international relationships, this local business needs strong trade policy to level the playing field.

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From its humble beginnings in a garage 20 years ago, SAFE Boats has boomed into a globally recognized manufacturer of military and law enforcement vessels with 300 employees in Washington state. The company is based in Bremerton and Tacoma and sells its products in over 50 countries. Some of their top markets include Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Tunisia and Israel. Scott Peterson, the co-founder & chairman, says that exports have driven much of their growth, and now account for approximately 40% of their sales. Mr. Peterson applauds Congress for passing Trade Promotion Authority so that the U.S. can finalize new free trade agreements that can break down trade barriers that reduce the competitiveness of U.S. companies. SAFE Boats has seen firsthand how prohibitive barriers and regulations can prevent the company from entering lucrative markets such as India and Brazil. “Any time barriers come down, it’s good for all parties. In such a global and competitive environment, removal of barriers drives economic growth for all countries involved,” says Mr. Peterson.

American Seafoods Video

American Seafoods, a Seattle-based fishing operation, leads the way in green and responsible harvest. With 80% of their catch exported abroad, they need strong trade policy to thrive.

Pacific Valley Foods

Pacific Valley Foods exports canned and frozen foods, fruit juices and concentrates to 25 countries. Because exports account for a whopping 90% of their sales, this family business depends upon lowered export tariffs and streamlined trade regulations.

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Pacific Valley Foods began in 1975 when Scott and Lynn Hannah began selling frozen vegetables and potatoes in the U.S. and internationally out of their Bellevue home. Nearly 40 years ago, they were one of the first companies to export these products to Japan. Since then, the company has grown to include canned foods, fruit juices and concentrates, frozen breakfast foods, frozen appetizers, and dried peas and popcorn in their product portfolio and has branched out to 25 countries all over the world. Today exports make up a whopping 90% of their sales. Their largest markets are in Asia, and they also have seen growing sales in New Zealand, Australia, the Middle East, Colombia and Chile. The recent free trade agreements with Colombia and Korea have made it easier for Pacific Valley Foods to compete in these markets, especially against European producers who faced lower tariffs. Vice President Susan Hannah says that anything that helps get their products on a more level playing field is hugely beneficial to their business. “Policies that open up markets for exports especially help small businesses in Washington state like ours since our state is the third largest exporting state, and the majority of exporters are small businesses. We’re in a much more competitive global market than we were twenty years ago, so we need Congress to pass new trade agreements that lower our trade barriers and establish consistent, non-discriminatory global trade rules.” Susan points out that their contracts and orders also support jobs at many other producers and processors in Washington.

Brown & Haley Video

Tacoma’s Brown and Haley is proud to manufacture sweet confections for over 35 countries. With 40% of its revenue coming from exports, this local operation needs free trade agreements to clear the path for high-standard trade.

Port Blakely Tree Farms

Port Blakely Tree Farms, located in Tumwater, is a family-owned, 150-year-old-company. Asian markets make up to 40% of their growth volume, meaning their 35 employees depend upon Washington’s global competitiveness.

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Port Blakely Tree Farms, located in Tumwater, is a family-owned, 150-year-old-company that owns and manages healthy forestlands throughout western Washington and Oregon. The company provides sustainable forest products, protects wildlife habitat and water resources, and supports the local communities in which it operates. Approximately 30-40% of the volume they grow is sold into export markets in Asia, which often pay premiums for high-quality logs. These export markets, as well as the strength of the domestic market, have allowed Port Blakely Tree Farms to grow the staff in Tumwater to 35 permanent, full-time positions. Port Blakely Tree Farms sees potential for even more growth in Japan if the Trans-Pacific Partnership could be passed, which could lower or eliminate tariffs on their forest products.

Ocean Spray Video

Washington has one of the only climates in the U.S. that can support cranberry growth. Ocean Spray needs strong trade policy to connect local family farmers with customers in over 100 countries.

Columbia Machine

Columbia Machine is based in Vancouver, Washington, and creates large construction manufacturing machines. Deeply entrenched in global business, this local company needs consistent trade rules in future trade agreements.

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Columbia Machine, located in Vancouver, Washington, began exporting their concrete manufacturing technology in the 1950s and has since exported to over 100 countries worldwide. The 500-person company prides itself in being a leader in developing machines that help their customers automate their manufacturing processes. Columbia Machine not only exports individual machines, but also entire factories that control the manufacturing process for concrete blocks, retaining walls, paving stones and other dry cast concrete products, from raw materials to finished products. As a result, their products are especially marketable in developing countries where widespread infrastructure and housing projects are underway, such as India, Mexico and Brazil. Columbia’s customers play an important part in making the building materials used to construct schools, hospitals, roads and ports around the world. Exports vary month by month, but range between 25 to 75% of their sales.

Columbia Machine’s CEO, Rick Goode, feels that the top benefit of future global trade agreements would be consistent global trade rules. “We are actively doing business with 11 of the 12 countries in the TPP, and if the rules were the same, it would be easier for us to compete and would take unfair advantages away from our competitors. That’s why we support passage of Trade Promotion Authority, which can help set the rules of trade.” The company also supports reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which he says helps U.S. exporters compete globally in the face of foreign competitors that receive much stronger export support from their own governments.

Westland Distillery Video

Seattle’s Westland Distillery brings the taste of Washington to the entire world with single-malt whiskey made from local barley. They need healthy trade relationships to reach countries from Asia to Europe to South America.

Milne Fruit

Milne Fruit has grown to 120 employees thanks to its increased sales of fruit products globally. However, steep tariffs and trade barriers prevent them from being competitive in many foreign markets. Trade agreements could address these problems and allow them to succeed.

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Milne Fruit, an industrial supplier of fruit and vegetable ingredients, has been operating in Prosser since the 1950s. The company sources the majority of ingredients for their fruit and vegetable juices, purees and powders from Washington state. Export sales, which now account for 30% of their revenue, have helped grow the company to 120 employees. Milne Fruit has exported to Japan for 40 years and recently has seen growth in other Asia-Pacific markets. For example, the recent U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement enabled Milne Fruit to increase their sales in the Korean market. Michael Sorenson, President and General Manager at Milne Fruit, urges Congress to pass new trade agreements that will put U.S. exporters on equal footing with foreign competitors. “Right now our products face an 18% tariff in Japan, but we compete with Chilean products that face zero tariffs due to their trade agreement. In fact, Chile has free trade agreements with numerous Asian and European countries, making it difficult for us to compete since the U.S. is not party to these agreements.” If trade barriers were wiped out through the TPP and TTIP in some of Milne Fruit’s key markets, they could continue to grow sales and local jobs.