Follow us:

Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

July 28, 2011 at 9:00 AM

Boeing to the Puget Sound: Prepare to drop dead

This from today’s Seattle Times:

Renton is by far Boeing’s most efficient plant, currently rolling out more than 31 jets a month on a moving assembly line. The company plans to raise that to 42 per month by the first half of 2014.

A finely tuned 737 supply chain converges on Renton. Among thousands of different parts deliveries, tail fins arrive from China, wingtips from Austria and wing flaps from Japan. Entire fuselages come by rail from Wichita, Kan. The wings are put together on site in Renton. To assemble the upgraded plane elsewhere would require redirecting all those parts to some new factory, an expensive logistical effort.

So would Boeing be so irresponsible with its shareholders’ money and even the future of the company as to attempt to build a re-engined 737 somewhere else (read North Charleston)? You bet.

This is the clear threat from Chairman and Chief Executive Jim McNerney’s surprising comments to analysts that the company hasn’t made a decision as to where the new 737 would be built. “We have other options and we’re going to study them all as we think this through.”

“Think this through.” The way you did the Dreamliner, Jim? Are you still channeling Jack Welch?

Sure, Boeing wants a cheap, malleable non-union workforce (you get what you pay for: I sure want to fly in those airplanes). And the brass is mad that the machinists had the impertinence to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and win a hearing (which Boeing wants handled in secret). Yes, strikes are costly. So are repeated blunders by overpaid top executives. But beyond all this, it’s hard not to think, as the movie trailers proclaim, “This time it’s personal.” Today’s Boeing is run by the zombie McDonnell Douglas, which essentially used the old Boeing’s money to acquire MD and take over. Moving the headquarters to Chicago was only the start. Chicago makes no sense as a headquarters city for the Asian Century — Seattle does. Then the repeated top-down mistakes on the 787, the devaluing of the engineering culture that is at the heart of the Puget Sound. Does Boeing really appreciate the finest aerospace cluster in the world, or is it just playing us for more big tax breaks?

Maybe it’s time to court Airbus.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Climate change denied

Same folks say default ain’t real

Denial flows wide

Comments | More in Aerospace/Boeing, Ports of Seattle and Tacoma

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►