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Boeing decision to move 787 line out of Everett impacts state economy, local workers

The exterior of the Boeing production building in Everett, Washington. (Nicole Jennings/KIRO Radio)

In the wake of Boeing officially announcing that it will be moving all of its 787 production out of Everett and consolidating it in South Carolina, local leaders and workers are reacting.

Boeing officially announces plan to move 787 production out of Everett

The local SPEAA union labeled Boeing’s move “a mistake,” and is now working to evaluate the large-scale effect this will have on its members.

“This is disappointing to our members and all Boeing employees in the Puget Sound region,” SPEEA President Ryan Rule said in a written release. “… SPEEA’s immediate focus is supporting the members who will be laid-off. Long term we will partner with community stakeholders to attract new aerospace jobs to the state by marketing the aerospace talent pool Boeing is walking away from.”

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers released a statement on Wednesday, prior to Boeing confirming reports of the move, saying that he was “deeply disappointed,” especially in the midst of job losses brought on by the ongoing pandemic.

“COVID-19 has pushed our economy into unwelcome and uncharted territory, and this is another blow,” Somers said.

Snohomish County Council Chair Nate Nehring echoed those sentiments Wednesday, voicing concerns that the region will likely “see the negative effects of this ripple throughout our local economy.”

Similarly, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin said that the 787’s departure will be “deeply felt throughout the community.”

In terms of the more direct impact on Western Washington’s economy, aviation expert Scott Hamilton told KIRO Radio that this will go well beyond the 1,000 or so Boeing jobs that will be leaving the state.

“A thousand Boeing jobs could be lost, but for every Boeing job, there are three or four indirect jobs created by the Boeing jobs,” he described.

That includes restaurants, coffee shops, and other businesses frequented by Boeing employees. With three to four indirect positions created by one Boeing worker, that means the overall hit will total upwards of 4,000-5,000 Snohomish County jobs.

A server and bartender at the Buzz Inn restaurant in Everett told KIRO Radio reporter Nicole Jennings that they get a lot of business from Boeing workers.

“It’s definitely going to impact us as a restaurant and as servers,” Courtney said. “It’s going to take a toll on us, for sure, because we rely on the Boeing employees a lot.”

There were Boeing employees in the restaurant this morning, she said, who were there when the announcement was made.

“It was definitely a shocker, especially when I have people on that plane,” she said. “So a little scary and interesting, especially when you know them closely.”

As for the reason behind the move, aviation expert Hamilton believes the ongoing COVID crisis is largely to blame.

Boeing pulls eight 787s with structural defects

“The airlines aren’t taking any deliveries of the 787, there are no new orders for the 787, and Boeing has something in excess of 50 787s parked that were built, that the airlines aren’t taking delivery of — that’s all driven by COVID,” he said.

A contractor, who asked to remain anonymous, works on Dreamliners and told KIRO Radio that he’s going to feel this cut massively. He had to lay workers off during the pandemic and had just brought some back, then this announcement was made.

“During corona, we had to lay off 80% of my workforce,” he said. “So I’m probably back at 70% capacity compared to what I was before all this happened. But because of how Boeing’s doing right now, I’m not where I want to be or not where I was.”

“My 2021 plans have definitely been hindered,” he added.

Gov. Inslee reacts to Boeing decision

Governor Jay Inslee released a statement Thursday warning that Boeing’s decision “necessitates a review of our partnership and the company’s favorable tax treatment.”

“We’ve done a lot for and with the Boeing Company,” Inslee said in a news conference Thursday. “We’re going to continue to work with the Boeing Company. But a review of this history suggests we have some thinking to do.”

He says as the dynamics of the partnership between Boeing and the state have now changed, the state has an obligation to taxpayers to consider that.

“We know about 1,000 Washingtonians face job uncertainty as a direct result of this decision,” Inslee said, adding that it also creates uncertainty more many more workers, including those in the supply chain.

That said, he noted that there are thousands of Boeing workers and people in the aerospace industry that will remain in Washington even after the 787 production line is gone.

The governor expressed confidence that the airline industry would rebound, saying that people will fly and they will fly on Boeing 787s.

“It is appropriate and fitting to be disappointed in this decision,” he said. “Particularly, and most importantly, in the fact that the Boeing Company has not even left on the table an option to restart the 787 line in Washington when this market rebounds. This market will rebound. People will fly. People will buy the 787.”

“When this market comes back, so should these jobs,” Inslee added. “… We will do everything in our power to that end, including treating taxpayers fairly.”

Tax breaks in Washington have saved Boeing millions of dollars per year, totaling approximately $230 million in 2018.

“We’re disappointed in the news about the 787 and our thoughts are with the workers, businesses, and families that have made it such a successful aircraft,” said Lisa Brown, Director of the Washington State Department of Commerce.

Brown said that the Boeing Company and aerospace industry has had a presence in Washington state for decades, and she doesn’t see that changing.

Beyond educating a workforce qualified for careers at Boeing, Brown said there are aerospace companies in 33 of 39 counties in Washington state.

“The aerospace sector in Washington state is ultimately still strong,” Brown said.

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