Hands-on Trade Supports Family
Ray moved to Pierce County at the age of 5 and has lived in in the county ever since. His career really began in high school, when he started printing the school newspaper at the Bethel High School print shop in Spanaway. “A friend of mine showed me a notepad with his name printed on it from the Bethel printing facility, and I just thought that was so cool. Soon enough I was working there myself.”
After Ray studied the trade at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood, printing remained in his blood, He’s had several jobs in the community over the course of a four-decade career. He’s now working as an equipment operator at Rite in the Rain, an innovative company on the Tacoma Tideflats that prints paper specially treated to be written on in adverse weather conditions, like rain or snow. The coated paper is not just durable but recyclable just like standard office paper.
Ray, 64, works both the printing press and the coater, which treats the paper with a patented coating to make it water-resistant. The water-based coating process emits only steam and all mill off-cuts are recycled back into the manufacturing stream. The printing plates and processing liquids are recycled, and all the printing inks are soy-based.
Ray loves the work at Rite at the Rain, which allows him to ply his chosen trade in a positive, collegial atmosphere and to be self directed during the day. “Printing is a very quantifiable trade,” Ray said. “Whatever you get done is sitting on the floor in front of you.”
Ray and his wife have lived in the same house in Tacoma, near Wapato Lake, for 30 years. It’s where they raised their two children, and where they still entertain their grandchildren. He says people working in hands-on trades is an integral part of the South Sound economy. “Who’s going to fix the plumbing? Who’s going to repair the electrical system when it breaks? We need these jobs and these are great jobs for the community.”