States step up effort for lucrative Boeing work

ReutersNovember 16, 2013 

State economic officials have jumped at the chance to grab a piece of Boeing’s newest jetliner program after a union vote stalled efforts to build the aircraft in Washington state.

Washington state estimated the 777X program would deliver $21.3 billion in economic benefits and support more than 56,000 direct and indirect jobs in the state over 16 years.

“We’re salivating,” Hugh “Trip” Tollison, president of the Savannah Economic Development Authority in Georgia, said in a meeting with Reuters. “We all thought this was a done deal for Washington.”

The states are getting a shot at the 777X after Boeing Co workers rejected on Wednesday an eight-year extension of their labor contract that, along with a package of tax breaks and other incentives, would have ensured that the 777X and its wings were built in Washington.

Washington already has studied competing sites including South Carolina, Texas, Kansas, Utah and Southern California to rank their competitiveness, he said. Other states are readying their offers.

Tollison said Georgia will put a competitive offer on the table, but likely will wait for a call from Boeing.

Washington was not counting itself out of the running, but officials acknowledged the state would have to prove it has the best package for Boeing.

“Washington deserves a fair shot at this contract, and I have made clear that I expect Boeing to provide it,” U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. was considered a strong contender to bring the wing work to Japan, or to possibly build a factory in the United States. Washington state officials have been pitching that idea to the Japanese industrial company for two years.

Mitsubishi could decide to build outside Washington. The company already has a large power turbine plant near Savannah, Ga., close to the nation’s fourth-largest seaport and two hours from North Charleston, S.C., where Boeing’s second assembly line for the 787 Dreamliner is located.

SC GOVERNOR ‘FEELS BAD’ FOR INSLEE

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Friday that she feels bad for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee following this week’s union vote that left Boeing looking for other states to build its 777X.

Haley said she has spoken to top company officials to assure them that South Carolina, where the company already assembles its 787 Dreamliner, is supportive of Boeing. But Haley, speaking with reporters at a South Carolina Chamber of Commerce meeting, said it’s too early to talk about South Carolina putting together an incentive package to lure the 777X.

She added that she told Boeing “South Carolina is on standby and ready for you whenever you need them.”

Bruce Smith of The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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