Lawmakers: Grab this chance to snag the 777X

The News TribuneNovember 8, 2013 

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday announced a special legislative session to secure assembly of the Boeing 777X for Washington state.

STEVE BLOOM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

State lawmakers and Boeing’s feisty machinists union will soon make up-or-down decisions on whether they want the company’s new 777X airliner built in the Puget Sound region.

Gov. Jay Inslee has called legislators to Olympia to consider a package designed to anchor the project in this state. The machinists will take a parallel vote Wednesday on a contract that could secure tens of thousands of union jobs for a very long time. Advice: Whatever it takes, do it.

Aerospace remains part of the bedrock of Washington’s economy. Losing Boeing’s aircraft assembly lines in Everett and Renton would have catastrophic economic consequences. That won’t happen anytime soon, but today’s leaders should be working to ensure that the industry will still be flourishing here a generation from now.

Big manufacturers don’t often make contractual promises about the distant future. Boeing has reportedly offered to do just that by guaranteeing to assemble its new 777X in Everett, contingent on union concessions and sweeteners from the Legislature.

Credit for this potential deal belongs to the leaders of both Boeing and the machinists; the company and the union had to overcome a long history of bad blood. Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray also played key roles in the months of diplomacy that produced the proposed union contract and legislation.

Deliveries of the highly sophisticated 777X would start in 2020. The Puget Sound assembly lines would keep on churning out jetliners for many years thereafter: Part of the guarantee, reportedly, is that Boeing would build the aircraft’s successor models in Everett as well.

No one on this end of the Sound should dismiss the 777X as merely a Snohomish County concern. Aerospace employs thousands of people on this end of Puget Sound; Boeing probably buys components for all its aircraft from suppliers in Pierce County.

Frederickson builds the vertical stabilizers and tail fins for the 787 and the current model of the 777. Toray Composites, based at the Pierce County industrial site, is one of the world’s leading producers of the lightweight carbon composites that are replacing metal in the airframes of modern jets.

If the 777X is assembled in Everett, it will produce plenty of high-paying jobs throughout the Puget Sound region.

The state’s commitment would include a 16-year extension — from 2014 to 2040 — of Boeing’s current manufacturing tax breaks. The estimated cost to the state would be $8.7 billion in forfeited taxes.

But those taxes won’t get paid in the first place if the jets aren’t built here, and the concessions would be vastly offset by the more than $21 billion in taxes state economists say would be generated if the jets are built here.

Union leaders and the governor have shown vision in crafting the contract and the legislative package. It remains for the rank and file — both machinists and lawmakers — to rivet the 777X to Washington’s future.

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