Longtime Chinook Enterprises CEO set to retire

January 3, 2019

Nearly 40 years after founding Chinook Enterprises, CEO Rob Martin is set to retire early this year.

Chinook Enterprises is a nonprofit manufacturing organization that works with various companies, including Boeing. The money it raises helps disabled workers find jobs, and about 25 percent of its employees are disabled, Martin said previously.

During Martin’s childhood, his father suffered a stroke and lost his job, according to a Chinook Enterprises news release.

“My dad was never the same after that,” Martin said in the release. “The impact to our family changed me.”

In the four decades since Martin founded Chinook Enterprises, it has created about 1,000 jobs locally for disabled workers, according to the release.

Martin estimates that equates to about $2 million in wages for part-time employees.

“I think that’s significant,” Martin said. “It gets people off dependence on government dollars in part.”

When he first started the organization, Martin said it was one of few nonprofits focused on providing employment for people with disabilities. He relied on a model developed by the University of Oregon to format the company.

On average, Martin said Chinook Enterprises places about 30 people in jobs each year. Depending on the economy, he said that can get up to 50 or 60 people each year.

In 2017, the organization placed 31 people in jobs varying from food service and retail to manufacturing and administration, according to its annual report.

In the past year, about six local employers hired multiple people through Chinook Enterprises, according to the report. They included Skagit River Brewery, Calico Cupboard, McDonald’s, Haggen Food Stores, Harmony Chai, and Volunteers of America.

In addition to placing people in jobs, Chinook Enterprises provides services such as work assessment and retention aid.

In 2017, the company served 164 people.

In advance of Martin’s departure, Chinook Enterprises’ board of directors conducted a national search for his replacement.

Steven Reed, who has a background in the auto industry, has been selected to serve as the new CEO.

“(Reed) has a lot of experience in helping companies grow to the next level and that’s what we’re looking at and wanting to do here,” Martin said.

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