What’s it going to take to entice Boeing to build the latest version of the 777 in Washington? Gov. Jay Inslee announced his plan Thursday to convince the company to keep the plane here and to grow the aerospace industry.
“We cannot afford to lose the 777-X it is the future,” Inslee said in a news conference at the Future of Flight Aviation Center. “We will show that we know how to create the economic climate that makes Washington the best place to build the best airplanes and preserve thousands of family-wage jobs for generations to come.”
Now that Boeing has announced its plan to invest another billion dollars in the production plant in South Carolina, Governor Inslee knows that the company has options other than building the 777-X in Everett. He said he’d prefer to keep work flowing to the more than 1,250 aerospace related companies across the state.
With South Carolina lawmakers agreeing to give Boeing $120 million more in tax breaks and incentives to expand its footprint in their state, Governor Inslee must sweeten the pot to keep the plane’s production in Washington.
Inslee said the Washington Aerospace Partnership, made up of business, government, and labor leaders, will “ensure shovel-ready development” by streamlining the permitting process.
The plan also promises to invest in local infrastructure, including funding projects like the 520 Bridge, Everett’s 42st Street to W Marine View Drive, and the Columbia River Crossing. It also addressed building a roll-on/roll off facility at the Port of Everett to make delivery of parts more efficient.
Investing in the future workforce is also a priority for the Partnership. It plans to push the Legislature to consider prioritizing education focused on aerospace. It wants high schools to include training programs and certification processes that earn student credits applicable to secondary education.
“Washington officials are scared to death Boeing will put the airplane someplace else,” Boeing analyst Scott Hamilton of the Leeham Company said. “Absolutely, Boeing is in a position to hold us hostage.”
Hamilton said the company is in a good bargaining position because it’s now proven it can take work outside of Puget Sound and be successful. But he believes Boeing will eventually decide on Everett to produce the new 777.
“I think that it would be silly for Boeing to assemble the 777-X elsewhere because of the cost that would be involved in setting up the line,” he said. But that doesn’t mean Boeing might make parts for the plane in South Carolina.
The 777-X will be based on the current 777 configuration, but it will have new composite wings and new engines to make it more fuel efficient.
The company has given its sales staff approval to sell the plane, but the board has yet to give launch approval for the line.
It was 10 years ago the state agreed on more than $3 billion worth of breaks and incentives to entice Boeing to build the 787 in Washington. Those breaks are on the books for another 11 years.