Boeing continues to invest, thrive in Washington state


(Aug. 14, 2013) — Reports of Boeing’s demise in Washington state are greatly exaggerated. Boeing was born here and grew into the diversified global aerospace giant it is today. The company continues to innovate and expand here and, yes, also contract in different geographic areas.

But it’s ridiculous to think that Boeing has made a decision to abandon Washington. The Northwest aerospace industry is thriving. There are more than 1,200 aerospace-related companies employing 131,000 engineers, machinists, executives and other highly skilled employees dedicated to Boeing’s success. Still, we cannot afford to be complacent or buy into reports of Boeing’s local decline lest they become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Overreacting to Boeing’s production changes impedes business development in Washington. Using every move that Boeing makes as a political attack further diminishes our confidence and image to the outside world.

Boeing depends on Washington for a dramatic portion of its profits. The 737 line in Renton is on track to produce an unprecedented 42 planes a month. The 787 plant in Everett is increasing production to seven planes a month (South Carolina is struggling to reach its stated goal of building three planes per month by the end of the year). The 777 production rate is 8 planes a month, the new Air Force refueling tanker is on the production line, and the first of the Navy’s P-8A Poseidon “sub hunters” are just entering service with the potential for hundreds of orders from the U.S. and allies around the world.

Boeing has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements to both the Everett and Renton plants. And, despite recent targeted contraction, overall Boeing employment is more than 10,000 employees larger here in Washington then it was in 2011.

This is not what leaving looks like.

Increasing global competition has expanded the options for aerospace companies and Washington has not lured every new program. But our competitive advantage remains unmatched. We have the highest concentration of aerospace companies in the world. Our high-skilled labor, design and engineering expertise are concentrated here along side the supplier network for parts and service. It’s this very concentration that has contributed to the success of Boeing and other aerospace companies for decades.

Hand wringing and political potshots undermine the leverage and advantage that Washington enjoys. But we must recognize the competition is getting tougher.

This fall Boeing is launching the new 777X program which will ensure the next generation of thousands of family wage jobs. But the promise of the 777X is bigger than jobs. This airplane embodies the cutting edge of manufacturing skills and expertise. Ensuring Washington builds the 777X further locks in our state’s competitive advantage over other locations.

Gov. Inslee announced the game plan to secure Washington’s position to win the 777X. Business, government and labor leaders throughout the state have created an alliance through the Washington Aerospace Partnership in support. Dozens of leaders from across the state, representing hundreds of thousands of people, are committing their time and financial resources to reaffirm our longstanding position as the best place in the world to build airplanes.

Our state must continue to keep the business climate competitive by investing in transportation improvements and expand educational opportunities ensuring we continue to have skilled workers to fill new positions. We can’t just offer incentives to companies, we must have a plan to build upon our legacy and prepare our workforce for the challenges of innovation. The payback benefits not just aerospace, but Microsoft, Amazon and other pivotal companies.

Boeing and its employees bolster our communities through wages and spending, but also through corporate and individual philanthropy providing millions of dollars and volunteers for arts, cultural and social services. Each year, Boeing and its employees contribute nearly $50 million and more than 100,000 hours in volunteer time, a commitment unmatched in our state.

Diversification in a global economy is not unique to Boeing. Washington may not capture all of Boeing’s future work, but the region has everything to gain from taking action to secure our legacy and our future.

Working together, we can demonstrate that Washington continues to be the best place in the world to build the 777X and secure our leadership position for years to come. Boeing is worth fighting for and Washington is worth growing in.

Bob Drewel of the Puget Sound Regional Council, Maud Daudon of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and Jeff Johnson of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, are co-chairs of the Washington Aerospace Partnership. This opinion column, which originally appeared in The (Everett) Herald, is reposted here with the authors’ permission.

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