A recent report about Boeing’s efforts to develop new, more efficient methods for assembling its new 777X is a good sign that the new plane may be built here in Washington state. But it’s far from a sure thing.
Building the new, high-tech 777X in Washington is crucial to the region’s long-term economy, especially in the South Sound.
More than 100 aerospace-related companies in Pierce County employ 3,700 engineers, machinists, executives and other highly skilled workers dedicated to Boeing’s success. We have companies like General Plastics, Toray and AIM Aerospace working in such critical specialty areas as plastics, composites, fabrication and machining. And tens of thousands of people who work for Boeing and other aerospace companies live, shop, get health care, and go to school in Pierce and nearby counties.
Aerospace is also important to our community fabric. Boeing and its employees bolster our communities with jobs and spending, but also through corporate and individual philanthropy providing millions of dollars and volunteers for arts, cultural and social services. Each year, Boeing and its employees statewide contribute nearly $50 million and more than 100,000 hours in volunteer time, a commitment unmatched in our state.
But the future of aerospace in Washington, including assembly of the new jet, is not assured. Our region has to be competitive across the board. Boeing has choices. Other regions are competing mightily to entice Boeing because of the well-paying jobs created by the aerospace industry. Some offer cash incentives, cheap land and lower wages.
But Washington has advantages too. We’re the “home team” – host to the largest concentration of skilled aerospace workers in the world with a vast supplier network and a proven track record.
Winning the 777X is important to us because the plane embodies the cutting edge of manufacturing and expertise. If it is built here, aerospace will continue to be a major job-creator in our region for at least the next generation.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced a game plan to secure Washington’s position to win the 777X. Business, government and labor leaders throughout the state have created an alliance through the Washington Aerospace Partnership in support. Dozens of leaders from across the state, representing hundreds of thousands of people, are committing their time and financial resources to reaffirm our longstanding position as the best place in the world to build airplanes.
Our state must continue to keep the business climate competitive. We must invest in transportation improvements and expanding educational opportunities to ensure we have skilled workers to fill new positions. These investments are needed to attract and grow aerospace are also needed to keep and attract companies in high technology companies, health care, maritime, logistics and other industries.
The aerospace sector of the economy is poised for growth. Our top priority is making sure Pierce County and its partners are ready to help. Working together, we can demonstrate that Washington continues to be the best place in the world to build the 777X and secure our leadership position for years to come.
Bruce Kendall is CEO of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County. Bob Drewel, executive director of the Puget Sound Regional Council, and Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, contributed to this article. All are members of the Washington Aerospace Partnership Board.