AWB honors PNNL for supporting STEM education

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The Association of Washington Business presented six companies – including Richland-based Pacific Northwest National Laboratory – with awards Nov. 29 at the group’s second-annual Evening of Excellence at Benaroya Hall in Seattle.

The award recipients, selected from 18 finalists, were recognized for exemplifying the innovation, community spirit and environmental stewardship.

“The award finalists – from a world-renowned national lab to a local skin-care product manufacturer – illustrate the diversity and innovation of Washington state’s employers,” said AWB President Kris Johnson in a news release. “Each of them were deserving of praise and recognition for all they do to improve lives, strengthen communities and create economic opportunity here and around the world.”

The six award categories align with AWB’s mission and vision statements.

Achieve Award: Recognizes a business that has excelled in creating, implementing or supporting a high-caliber education and/or work force development system aligned with closing the employment gap.

Richland-based Pacific Northwest National Laboratory received this year’s Achieve Award. The lab was recognized for its efforts its ongoing support of STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, curricula within Washington’s K-12 schools and institutions of higher education to create awareness of the high-tech careers available to the next generation of work force.

The other finalists for the Achieve Award were Greater Spokane Incorporated and the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, or AJAC.

Employer of the Year: Recognizes an employer that has implemented innovative job retention, creation, benefits, and/or compensation plans that foster a thriving work environment.

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in Pullman, which designs and builds digital products that protect power systems around the world, took home the award for its commitment to its employee-owners and the community. The company is expanding its Pullman facility, creating an additional 850 jobs, and is a first-adopter of on-site, no-copay employee health clinics in 2012 to serve its employees and their families. The company is 100 percent employee owned.

The other finalists for the award were Tacoma’s Rite in the Rain and Sumner-based Bellmont Cabinet Company.

Entrepreneur of the Year: Given to an entrepreneur whose business is less than five years old and has made a significant impact in their industry.

Bellingham-based Aslan Brewing received the award for its focus on locally-sourced goods and environmentally friendly practices, offering customers a sustainable product. The company is committed to preserving local management, contributing to the community through donations, and fostering a strong relationship with its work force.

The other finalists for the were C2S Technologies in Bellevue and Schilling Cider in Auburn.

Connect Award: Recognizes a business whose products and/or services have positively impacted the way in which Washington employers and communities are connected to each other and the world.

The award was presented to Alaffia, the Tumwater-based skin-care product manufacturer. Founded in 2003, this fair-trade skin and body care company was recognized for its efforts to alleviate poverty and promote gender equality in the West African nation of Togo through its sustainable sourcing of raw materials from the country that are then manufactured here in Washington state.

The other finalists were Bellevue’s Expedia and Frontier Communications, located in Everett.

Leading Environmental Practices Award: Recognizes a business that has placed a priority on environmental improvement, education or outreach to its business sector and/or community.

Earth Friendly Products took home the award for Leading Environmental Practices. The company has made green manufacturing a priority since 1967. In 2010, Earth Friendly Products switched to 100 percent renewable energy and achieved carbon neutrality in all of its five locations, including Lacey. As a result, the company avoids emissions of 54 million pounds of carbon dioxide each year.

The other finalists for the Leading Environmental Practices Award were Honeywell International, Inc., in Redmond and Nucor Steel Seattle.

Advance Award: Recognizes a business that has had a significant cause-oriented impact in its sector and/or community and contributed to the advancement of the economy.

Seattle’s A&R Solar received this year’s Advance Award. A&R Solar founders Andy Yatteau and Reeves Clippard began operations a decade ago as a solar installation company. Today, the company lends its expertise to employers of all sizes and homeowners to find the right solar system fit for their needs. The company then helps design, build and maintain those solar energy systems. To date, A&R Solar has completed 1,200 solar projects, including Washington state’s largest solar project on the roof of new Ikea store in Renton, totaling more than 10 megawatts of clean energy.

The other finalists were WGU Washington and the Western Institutional Review Board, based in Puyallup.