The Washington state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) announced Tuesday that it is awarding $2 million in grants to two Seattle-area appliance repair shops to improve efficiency and service levels.
The awards will go toward a new state-of-the-art facility that is expected to cost about $30 million.
WSDOT awarded the first of the two grants to B&H, the company that operates the King County Metro-owned Bellingham Appliance Repair Center.
The $2.5 million grant will allow the company to expand its operations in Bellingham and help it meet the increasing demand for service, said Dan Smith, director of WSDO’s appliance repair program.
The grant was awarded to the Seattle-based company in November 2016 and the second grant will go to Seattle-bound ABT, a Seattle-owned appliance repair company.
Both ABT and WSDT will have to make major upgrades to their operation, including expanding their service capacity and upgrading their maintenance and diagnostic equipment, Smith said.
ABT has been operating at capacity since 2014, Smith told The Associated Press.
“They have been in the middle of the pack in terms of their service performance,” Smith said of the company.
ABt’s first contract expired in November, and Smith said it was considering moving the operation out of the state.
ABM has also been struggling in recent years.
The company’s revenue fell 9.5% in fiscal year 2018, its first year in operation, according to the company’s latest quarterly report.
The loss was the largest in the company, Smith noted.
WPDOT will decide by early February whether to grant ABT another $5 million in 2018, Smith added.
ABTM is a division of ABT.
The award comes as Seattle-side Bellingham appliance repairs are getting increasingly competitive with the Seattle area’s more than 1,500 other repair shops.
The Bellingham area, which is a commuter city, has long been known for its low prices and a strong economy, but the trend has started to change in recent months.
A growing number of businesses in the region are seeking out local repairs, and Seattle-heavy areas such as the Pioneer Square and the Fremont area have seen the biggest increases in appliance repairs over the past two years, according the Seattle Times.
Smith said the WSDOTS grant program is meant to encourage businesses to spend more on their repairs, but he acknowledged that the program does not have a clear-cut answer to the problem of service.
He said it could be the case that Bellingham is better served by outsourcing the repairs to a service center that can keep up with demand.
“I’m not going to pretend that it doesn’t happen, but it does,” Smith told the AP.
“The Bellingham market is pretty fragmented, so if you look at the amount of time you spend in the Bellingham center, it’s not that high.”
Smith said ABT’s current equipment and the state’s current infrastructure will help it keep up.
“We’re doing all we can to be a service hub,” Smith added, but there are also a number of other local services, such as Bellingham-area transportation services, that ABT could help with.
“But there are some other parts of the market that ABTM should be helping with,” Smith continued.
“It’s not about whether they’re good at what they do, it just means that if they do do that, it helps them out a lot.”
More AP business: