Innovator of the Year (Large Company)


Outdoor Research, Seattle

Fleece-lined gloves that come with their own rain shield, tucked in a handy pouch on the back. A cap that comes with its own rain guard, tucked in a pocket on the rim, so that wearers are protected rain or shine.

Such are the tweaks, innovations and improvements that mark a business that got its start when its founder came up with an improved gaiter for mountaineers. From there, the company designed apparel, climbing and skiing gear and a hat it dubbed the Seattle Sombrero. Expect to see the pace of new and improved products continue: In 2011, Outdoor Research added several product-development posts.

“We do weird well,” says CEO Dan Nordstrom in a company video. “We’re very focused on niches. We pick an environment, we pick a sport, we pick an altitude sometimes, we certainly pick a temperature range. We try to think about what are all the ways this thing’s got to perform perfectly in this situation.” Ideas come from customers enlisted in Outdoor Research’s Lab Rat Program; prototypes are tested in the elements by outdoors experts and by employees themselves.

Outdoor Research has had to be innovative in management as well. When founder Ron Gregg was killed in an avalanche in 2003, Nordstrom, not just an experienced retailer but an enthusiastic outdoorsman, stepped in to buy and run the company. Last year, Nordstrom split the jobs of CEO and president, retaining the former while naming Alex Kutches to the latter.

The 2016 Washington Manufacturing Awards: Legacy Award

The 2016 Washington Manufacturing Awards: Legacy Award

Winner: Belshaw Adamatic Bakery Group
Legacy Award
Belshaw Adamatic Bakery Group
Auburn ›
When it’s time to make doughnuts — or loaves of bread, or sheets of rolls — it could well be a Belshaw Adamatic piece of equipment that’s turning out the baked goods. From a 120,000-square-foot plant in Auburn, Belshaw Adamatic produces the ovens, fryers, conveyors and specialty equipment like jelly injectors used by wholesale and retail bakeries.
The firm’s two legacy companies — Belshaw started in 1923, Adamatic in 1962 — combined forces in 2007. Italy’s Ali Group North America is the parent.
It it takes work to maintain a legacy. A months-long strike in 2013 damaged morale and forced a leadership change. Frank Chandler was named president and CEO of Belshaw Adamatic in September 2013. The company has since strived to mend workplace relationships while also introducing a stream of new products, such as a convection oven, the BX Eco-touch, with energy saving features and steam injection that can be programmed for precise times in baking. The company energetically describes it as “an oven that saves time, reduces errors, makes an awesome product, and is fun to use and depend on every day!”
So far, more than 3,000 have been installed in quick-service restaurants, bakeries, cafés and supermarkets in the United States. They are the legacy of Thomas and Walter Belshaw, former builders of marine engines, who began producing patented manual and automated doughnut-making machines in Seattle 90 years ago. They sold thousands worldwide and, today, Belshaw Adamatic is the nation’s largest maker and distributor of doughnut-making equipment.