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Lawmakers, experts build package to entice Boeing’s Washington loyalty

Boeing’s 777 program is responsible for about $20 billion a year in economic impact to the state of Washington. The governor knows this state can’t afford to lose that.

A task force of aviation insiders and lawmakers are working to put together a package for Boeing that they hope will entice the company to build the new 777X in Washington.

The task force has met three times since being formed earlier this month. It knows what Boeing wants, and now it’s crafting an offer to present the company.

“I think we have a good handle on what the issues are,” said state Director of Aerospace Alex Pietsch. “The question now is, where’s the common ground that we can come together on to put a package in place for Boeing to consider.”

Here’s what Boeing is looking for. It wants transportation improvements. It needs a highly skilled workforce. It wants less regulation and consideration when it comes to environmental policy. It also wants tax advantages.

Governor Jay Inslee has already said he wants to extend the current tax breaks Boeing enjoys until 2040. He wants to ease permitting, and he wants to step up aviation education.

State Representative Matt Manweller, a Republican from Ellensburg, is one of the 12 lawmakers hashing out the offer.

“This task force is going to have to come up with a series of tax, regulatory, workers’ comp, education and transportation incentives that we put on a piece of paper, slide across the table and say ‘Is this good enough for you to stay here rather than going to South Carolina?'” he said.

Democrat Larry Springer of Kirkland says plenty of other states want this 777X production program, and he knows many of them are going to promise Boeing the world to get it.

“Every state, whether it’s South Carolina or Kansas or Texas, will have something in their favor, but few states are as well-balanced as Washington, in terms of all of those issues,” Rep. Springer said. “While we might not be able to beat California or South Carolina on a specific issue, we should be very competitive when you take a look at the entire package.”

But there isn’t much time to put this package together. The governor wants it ready before the Dubai Air Show Nov. 17 when Boeing is expected to finally unveil the 777X program.

“We want to make sure Boeing goes to that knowing that the state of Washington is willing to work with them on the number of issues that are important,” he said.

The 777X is expected to marry the design improvements and carbon-fiber technology of the 787 wings with a standard aluminum fuselage.

It is already generating a lot of interest. Two major international airlines have reportedly ordered more than 60 of the planes, even though the program hasn’t officially launched.

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