At Washington state’s reception on the eve of the Paris Air Show, state officials acknowledged the possibility that Everett may lose out on assembling the 787-10, the latest and biggest model in the Dreamliner jet family, likely to be launched at the show on Monday.
Two officials at the reception, speaking on background, said they were not surprised at the idea that the biggest Dreamliner may be assembled exclusively at Boeing’s 787 plant in North Charleston, S.C.
Both observed that the new 787 final assembly plant in South Carolina is big enough to fit four of the large 787-10s nose-to-tail, which they don’t think is true in the two 787 assembly bays in Everett.
But all the delegates put on a brave face, asserting that Washington retains huge advantages in the industry with its almost 100-year legacy of aviation excellence.
They certainly didn’t criticize Boeing, instead insisting that the company spreading work around to other states only underlines how aggressively Washington needs to work to retain the jetmaker and all the jobs that go with it both at Boeing and its suppliers.
“Boeing is increasingly in a competitive global environment, not just with Airbus,” said Dow Constantine, King County executive. “They have to make some very tough decisions. Our job is to make sure that to the extent possible, our region builds on its advantages and removes any impediments to Boeing.”
“There’s definitely a diversification going on with Boeing,” he said. “Clearly other states are putting on a full court press to attract our businesses. We need to get out there and sell.”
Constantine said he’ll spend Tuesday at the Air Show meeting with suppliers.
Rep. Rick Larsen of Everett – who stepped in at the last minute to lead the delegation when Gov. Jay Inslee pulled out due to the state budget crisis – said he’ll have lunch Monday with Boeing CEO Jim McNerney and will bring up the issue of where the 787-10 will be assembled along with “many others.”
“We know we need to be hungry for every piece of Boeing’s business,” Larsen said. “We’re ready to be hungry. We are hungry.”
Brad Lawrence, chief executive of Bellevue-headquartered aerospace company Esterline, has a unique perspective, since his company has grown through acquisitions into a global company with half its employees outside the U.S.
Esterline has just two units in Washington state, employing about 1,000 people at Korry in Everett and Hytek Finishes in Kent. But that still makes it the largest publicly traded aerospace employer that’s headquartered in Washington.
Lawrence outlined what he sees as Washington’s advantages and disadvantages.
On the plus side, he said, it’s a huge benefit to suppliers to be so close to Boeing. And the workforce is “knowledgeable and skilled.”
On the downside, “it’s costly due to our state tax structure.” And he added that the strength of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) in the state “frequently means a higher cost of operation.”
Hytek recently ended a series of protracted and difficult negotiations to finalize its first contract with the IAM.
Lawrence said that “as long as Boeing remains soidly in the area, their suppliers will always have an advantage,” Lawrence said. “That appears to be the focus of Washington’s efforts and I think it’s appropriately placed.”
Although held at a fancy hotel and officer’s club in central Paris, Washington’s reception was more workmanlike than lavish.
With only tiny nibbles of hors d’oeurves, delegates listened to speeches from the political leaders in the delegation. Here’s a flavor of Larsen’s keynote.
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