From the beginning of the pandemic when the eyes of the country were fixed on Washington’s first-in-the-nation Covid-19 outbreak to the darkest days of lockdown, employers found a way to keep going.

You worked from home. You geared up in PPE and adapted to new protocols. You built online stores and retooled production lines to make face masks, hospital gowns and hand sanitizer. In this state of makers and entrepreneurs, you made it happen. And AWB was with you at every turn.

In the earliest days of the lockdown, when the world was coming to grips with the scale of this ordeal, AWB was a source of timely, credible information. As the weeks turned into months, we were your advocate in Olympia, encouraging the safe reopening of as much of the economy as possible, as quickly as possible, as safely as possible.

We helped employers access grant funding and PPE. We joined with others to promote face masks as a way to save lives and save jobs. In October, when we would normally be on the road touring manufacturing shopfloors, we built a mobile video set and streamed programming from a safe distance. The pandemic didn’t stop manufacturers from coming through when we needed them, and it didn’t stop us from shining a spotlight on this important sector.

We went through a lot in 2020, but we found a way to keep going. And we’re not stopping now.

AWB is the catalytic leader and unifying voice for economic prosperity throughout Washington state.

Kris Johnson, President | Brian Forth, Board Chair


AWB quickly became a trusted source of timely, credible information that helped business navigate the pandemic. A web page launched in March became a central hub of information, not only for AWB members but for every business in Washington. Website traffic surged 470% in the months immediately following the pandemic outbreak. A series of free webinars also delivered information. Nearly 1,100 people joined a conference call with the governor and state health officials. It was the first of more than two dozen webinars that provided critical updates to more than 5,500 employers.

“You not only let us know, you told us the list of things people would be looking for. It was eye-opening: This was a time of need and that we could help.”

Philip Rozenski, Vice President of Public Affairs, Novoloex

The company, which operates Shield Bag in Yakima, said AWB’s email action alert was their first notice of a major need and opportunity, giving the company a two- or three-week head start on shifting production to manufacturing PPE


The Rebound and Recovery Task Force began meeting in April to help employers reopen their doors for business following the initial lockdown. In a matter of weeks, the volunteer task force — representing 21 different employment sectors — spearheaded development of a website that featured a portal connecting hundreds of Washington manufacturers to small businesses in need of PPE. In its first week, the website had almost 4,000 visits.

The website also included a tool kit with communication templates, signs, and other resources that small businesses needed to safely open. By the end of the year, more than 9,000 downloads were made from the tool kit.


AWB joined with a coalition of statewide employer groups to promote the use of face masks as way to save lives and prevent further businesses shutdowns. The campaign included digital advertising pointing people to a website with downloadable posters, videos, social media and additional content aimed at employers.


In October, AWB hit the road for the fourth-annual Manufacturing Week tour to tell the story of Washington’s vibrant manufacturing sector. But instead of traveling in a custom-wrapped bus and touring dozens of shopfloors, it featured a mobile video production set. Over the course of six days, a TV-style web stream program focused on issues important to manufacturers, from workforce development and innovation to aerospace, women in manufacturing and PPE heroes. Every moment — all 11 hours-plus hours — was broadcast on Manufacturing Week LIVE!


WFH (work from home) means WFA (work from anywhere). As the pandemic wore on, people in urban areas discovered they could work from anywhere as long as it had a fast and reliable broadband connection. This means new opportunities for rural and small communities. AWB built on its longstanding advocacy for rural vitality with a two-day virtual summit focused on helping rural communities flourish. Topics included broadband and digital equity, telehealth and child care.


Washington’s real estate market boomed in 2020, reinforcing the need for solutions to the state’s longstanding homelessness and affordable housing issues. AWB continued its focus on this issue by joining with partners in hosting a series of virtual Housing Forum discussions that examined everything from property availability and permitting costs to zoning and density debates.


Even before the pandemic, more than a half million children in Washington didn’t have access to licensed child care. Since the start of the pandemic, 20% of child care providers were at least temporarily closed and child care providers saw costs increase by 30% as they adapted to new regulations and lower child-to-staff ratios. This is not just a significant issue for families, but it’s also a growing concern for employers and the economy. AWB delivered this message to lawmakers, sharing the findings of a recent study with multiple legislative committees.


We need everyone working together to reimagine Washington and create the vision for what we can and should become. That was the heart of Washington in the Making prior to the pandemic, and it only became more relevant as 2020 unfolded. The AWB Institute launched the initiative in the midst of the pandemic, positioning the effort to not only rebuild an economy battered by Covid-19, but rebuild it stronger than it was before.

Washington in the Making uses a mix of data analysis called the Vitals combined with Washington’s legacy of creativity, persistence and courage to envision a state where all people and all communities prosper. The Vitals are presented in a dashboard measuring Washington’s vital economic indicators — 34 indicators for all 39 counties ranging from the unemployment rate and median household income to percentage of income spent on rent and the number of households without internet. The numbers, provided by Eastern Washington University Institute for Public Policy & Economic Analysis, are built around five pillars that provide a roadmap to shared prosperity in every part of the state:

Washington has always been a state of makers and doers, and Washington in the Making will build on this to craft a future that’s better for everyone.

“I hear time and time again from employers that they are looking for employees who have had applicable job experience by the time they graduate from college. Not only does this type of experience benefit employers, it benefits students. Gaining real-world experience is one of the ways students learn how to transform classroom learning into action — and a great way to expand foundational skills like teamwork, critical thinking and communication.”

Sandra Haynes, Chancellor, WSU Tri-Cities


This new online portal uses technology to connect young people to real-world, work-based learning opportunities including internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing and more. Pilot efforts launched in Spokane and the Tri-Cities, in partnership with Greater Spokane, Inc. and the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce as well as employers and higher education partners. As it grows, the portal will address Washington’s current workforce shortage and help students gain relevant skills for world of work that’s altered by the pandemic.


The new recovery Vitals, created and maintained by the AWB Institute, are a quick way to keep an eye on eight key metrics, with big red or green numbers showing if the vital signs are headed in the right direction. Whether it’s the unemployment rate, number of net jobs created, residential building permits or other important signs, the Recovery Vitals portal is a great page for business and civic leaders to bookmark. In cooperation with the Institute for Public Policy & Economic Analysis at Eastern Washington University, the AWB Institute created the Vitals page as part of the broader Washington in the Making effort to help every corner of Washington get trained and working.


Whether you manage a small, medium or large business, AWB member services give you the tools you need to take care of your employees and stay competitive. HealthChoice makes it possible for even the smallest employer to offer affordable, high-quality health insurance. MyFuture 401(k) allows businesses of any size to offer a robust retirement plan for owners and their employees — without the set-up costs and administrative hassle of traditional 401 (k) plans. And the CompWise retrospective rating program improves the experience of employers with the workers’ compensation system.

“AWB’s HealthChoice is high quality and affordable, and it’s small-business oriented.”



Created at the request of AWB’s small business members more than 20 years ago, the HealthChoice association health plan has been a leading health insurance option for employers across Washington state. Historically, of the more than 3,000 participating employers, all of them small businesses, about 40 percent were previously uninsured.


Launched in 1996, AWB’s CompWise workers’ compensation retrospective rating program helps employers reduce their net workers’ compensation costs. Comprehensive services include effective claims management, return-to-work programs, safety consulting and compliance assistance. To date, the program has issued $135 million in premium refunds to AWB CompWise members. Additionally, as part of the program, participants have access to online Safety Academy courses that cover everything from ergonomics to chemical hazard communication.

MY FUTURE 401(k)

Big company retirement savings plans are now available for small companies through AWB’s My Future 401(k) plan. It’s an affordable and seamless way for employers to save for their retirement and offer a retirement savings plan to employees. My Future 401(k) eliminates barriers and reduces the administrative hurdles, making it a good retirement savings plan option for you and your employees.


AWB is proud to celebrate the innovation, community investment and overall accomplishments of our members with the annual Evening of Excellence and Manufacturing Excellence award programs.

The 2020 Washington Excellence Award Winners:

The 2020 Manufacturing Excellence Winners:

AWB Grow Here Campaign