A bus full of business advocates made a stop in Woodland last week to see firsthand one of the city’s biggest industries, one that anyone who fishes can appreciate.
On Oct. 2, the Association of Washington Business began its Manufacturing Week statewide tour. After starting in Vancouver, a bus branded for the event pulled into G. Loomis, a fishing rod manufacturer that has been a part of the city for more than three decades.
The highlight for those riding the bus was touring the factory floor where the rods were made. Though photos weren’t allowed on the floor, those taking part were able to take in the production process where hundreds of different models are put together.
G. Loomis was one of nearly 30 stops statewide for the tour. AWB President and CEO Kris Johnson said the tour gives a chance to highlight the breadth of manufacturing in the state outside of the big names like Boeing.
“Oftentimes in our state we think of things that we manufacture (are) computers, high tech and airplanes,” Johnson said.
According to information from the AWB, Clark and Cowlitz counties had a combined total of close to 20,000 manufacturing jobs.
“I think it’s important to remind people that 300,000 people every day wake up and go to work for a manufacturer in the state of Washington,” Johnson said.
He commented on how much G. Loomis had grown since he last saw the facility two years ago.
“There was some energy in that building today,” Johnson said.
G. Loomis Director of Communications Bruce Holt has been with the company for 35 years including time as its executive director. When he started, everything was custom-built, though nowadays the business operates like a well-oiled machine. He said the facility is capable of producing up to 700 rods in a day.
A highlight for the employees was being able to sign the bus, which featured a stylized roadmap of all the different stops on the statewide tour. Holt said that getting recognition from the AWB let the workers know their importance in the business community.
“When they take the time out of their busy schedule to come to our factory just to show the employees just how important they are to the community and to the industry, that’s something really special,” Holt said.
G. Loomis’ namesake, Gary, stepped away from the company in 2008. Holt himself is retiring at the end of the year, though fishing will still be a big part of his post-industry life.
“I’m looking forward to fishing on the weekdays,” Holt said.
Taking part in the tour was Woodland Mayor Will Finn who brought up that there were two other fishing rod manufacturers in the city, Lamiglass and EDGE Rods, which along with G. Loomis carved out a niche for the city’s industry.
“There are some interesting businesses in Woodland that are just kind of tucked away,” Finn said.
Outside of showcasing G. Loomis, the mayor noted having something like the Manufacturing Week tour can put available properties on the radar for prospective businesses to look at Woodland for their next expansion.
“We’re a business-friendly city, so we’re willing to work with anybody that wants to come to town,” Finn said.