By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Inslee toured Peninsula College's Advanced Composites Center at North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center in Port Angeles before meeting privately with Port of Port Angeles Commissioner Colleen McAleer, Peninsula College President Luke Robbins, and other college officials as well as representatives of composite-based businesses.
“You guys will build a carbon fiber airplane,” Inslee told students.
“I just talked to Boeing this morning. They're going to make a carbon fiber airplane — at some point — a 737,” he said. “We hope. We just don't know when.”
Carbon fiber is a material consisting of thin, strong crystalline filaments of carbon, used as a strengthening material, especially in resins and ceramics.
Inslee spoke briefly with basic composites and fabrication students of Peninsula College instructor Dan Sweetser, who were making wakeboards — ridden in a water sport that combines skateboarding, snowboarding, waterskiing and surfing — in the composites center.
“I've got a friend at Zumiez. Maybe I'll see if I can help you sell these boards to Zumiez,” Inslee said to the students.
Tom Campion, CEO of the Zumiez outdoor gear store, is a large donor to Democratic candidates, mostly in Washington.
Zumiez gave $18,100 to fund Inslee's congressional campaigns, and $4,800 to Inslee's 2012 gubernatorial campaign, according to state and federal elections filings.
Students in Sweester's class use repurposed carbon fiber waste from aerospace composites to make things like wakeboards, snowboards and bike parts, said Norm Nelson, efficiency and environmental expert for Mervin Manufacturing at Carlsborg.
“It's not in good enough shape for aerospace use, but it's perfectly fine for making bikes,” said Nelson, who also teaches classes at the college.
Mervin recaptures a lot of the waste from its carbon fiber board products and recycles that material to build new boards.
Inslee said he rides a bike made out of carbon fiber.
Darren Greeno, Peninsula College's workforce director, asked the governor's help in expanding the composites center so it can draw students from across the state.
The center uses a lot of material donated from manufacturing companies in the Puget Sound area to train its students, and has machines no other college in the Northwest has for them to learn how to make products from that material, Greeno said.
McAleer said the meeting after the tour was private because it involved a private company that did not want information released.
Earlier in the day, Inslee observed the change of command at Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles.
Following his Peninsula College stop, the governor met with Lower Elwha Klallam tribal officials, who were slated to show him salmon recovery efforts on the Elwha River and the former Elwha Dam site.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.