Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Strong schools, strong Washington

A new school year is around the corner, and recent test results are paving the way to a good start.

Today’s release of ACT exam scores shows Washington students continue, for the eighth straight year, to score far above the national average. With more than an average composite score of 22.8 percent, Washington students in the class of 2011 finished with the ninth highest composite score in the nation. One out of every five Washington 12th graders (13,677) took the ACT in the 2010-11 school year, a record for ACT participation in this state. Click here to read more.

Additionally, given this year’s release of SAT scores and Advanced Placement participation rates, Washington students appear to have a leg up on the rest of the country. Washington students have led the nation in average SAT scores among states with at least 50 percent participation for the past eight years. Also, 18,296 Washington students (or 28%) in the class of 2010 took at least one AP exam, an increase of nearly 1,061 from the previous year and 4,982 from five years ago. For more information, visit the College Board’s sixth annual AP Report to the Nation. As for higher education, Washington’s public four-year colleges and universities have the best graduation rates in the nation (69.4% compared to the national average of 53.6%).

With some of the world’s best companies and skilled workers, the road to a prosperous future for Washington and its students surely looks promising.

To read this blog post in Spanish, please go here.

Job gains in state steady, but not enough to drop unemployment rate

New monthly numbers released be the state Employment Security Department show a consistent increase in new jobs over the past 11 months. But those numbers are offset by job losses and a stagnant economy. 5,700 jobs were added in July, but the unemployment rate remained at 9.3 percent.

Year over year, more than 37,000 jobs have been added in Washington, accounting for a gain of 46,000 private-sector jobs and a loss of 8,800 government jobs.

According to ESD, industries that posted gains in July were leisure and hospitality, which added 1,700 jobs; manufacturing, up 1,600; retail trade, up 1,200; transportation, warehousing and utilities, up 1,200; professional and business, up 1,100; financial activities, up 1,000; construction, up 800; and government, up 500.

Jobs were lost in other services, down 2,200, and information, down 1,000.

If you or someone you know is looking for work or may qualify for unemployment insurance, visit: ESD's website here.

To read this blog post in Spanish, please go here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Four years later, Grays Harbor IPZ businesses remain optimistic

The mood at two Grays Harbor County employers was decidedly optimistic last week. Despite the lingering effects of the national recession, these businesses are doing well and either have plans to expand or hope to be able to expand in the future, which is good news not only for Harborites, but all Washingtonians.

Rep. Steve Tharinger toured Paneltech and Imperium Renewables as he swung through Grays Harbor on August 10 and 11. At both locations, he met with managers who seemed upbeat about the future.

Imperium, which currently has 42 full-time employees, is hoping to be able to approximately double its workforce at the Hoquiam plant if it is able to secure a long-term contract with the U.S. military to produce aviation biofuel. The Hoquiam plant is already the nation's largest BQ-9000®-certified biofuel refinery.

Paneltech, another Grays Harbor-headquartered company, is also a recognized leader in the manufacturing of eco-friendly wood products. In fact, Paneltech uses 100 percent post-consumer paper waste combined with resin from manufacturing waste to create sustainable products that are used by homeowners, businesses, and even the U.S. military.

Both Paneltech and Imperium are part of the Grays Harbor Sustainable Industries Innovation Partnership Zone. Innovation Partnership Zones (IPZs) were created by the Legislature in 2007 as a way to bring together public, private, and nonprofit entities to further research and job creation in fields that show exciting promise for economic development. The Grays Harbor site was one of the 12 original IPZs named by Governor Gregoire.

Photo: Rep. Tharinger examines a piece of Paperstone, a product made by Paneltech at its Hoquiam manufacturing facility. To his right is Roy Nott, Paneltech's president.