What Boeing wants: A look at the 777X RFP

The Seattle TimesDecember 5, 2013 

This artist’s concept illustrates Boeing’s new family of 777X jetliners, the 777-9X, top, and 777-8X. Boeing currently has more than a dozen states in competition from coast to coast hoping that Boeing will choose them to assemble its new 777X jetliner.

BOEING GRAPHIC — The Associated Press

Boeing documents sent out to states that want to win 777X work reveal that the project will require total investment of up to $10 billion, but that Boeing wants states to take a big slice out of that by providing the site and facilities at “no cost, or very low cost.”

The documents state that the company projects 8,500 direct jobs on the program.

The details are included in the formal Request for Proposal (RFP) that was sent out to the 15 sites around the country that were deemed by Boeing potential locations for the 777X work. A copy, marked “Boeing proprietary,” was obtained by The Seattle Times.

The documents, dated Nov. 22, describe three scenarios for which each site can make its pitch.

The first scenario is that the site wins all of the work: It both fabricates the giant composite wing of the 777X and then assembles, paints and delivers the airplane.

The second and third scenarios separate the wing fabrication and final assembly of the jet, so that different locations would win those pieces of the work.

According to the documents, Boeing estimates that a site winning all the 777X work, both wing and final assembly, will gain 8,500 direct jobs at peak production in 2024. That would include 800 engineers, 6,750 production workers and 950 administrative and support personnel.

A site that does final assembly but without the wing fabrication would provide a peak of 5,740 direct jobs, including 535 engineers, 4,570 production workers and 635 administrative and support personnel, according to Boeing’s document.

Fabricating and assembling the wing, if done at a separate location, would provide a peak of 2,760 direct jobs, including 265 engineers, 2,180 production workers and 315 administrative and support personnel.

The documents lay out three must-have requirements for any site that hopes to win the work:

  • An airport with a 9,000-foot runway capable of handling both the 777X and 747-400 jumbo freighters that could deliver parts.
  • Easy highway and road access to the site for delivering parts.
  • Direct access to the site by rail, including a dedicated rail spur right into the site. This is described as “a critical requirement to support delivery and shipping of parts.”

In addition to these three essentials, the documents list one other “desired” infrastructure feature: a seaport that can handle regular and oversized containers.

The 777X composite wing, according to the documents, is 114 feet long and 23 feet across.

If Boeing chooses to make the wing in one site and then assemble the jet in another, transport of the wing to the final assembly site is a key logistics challenge.

A conceptual representation in the documents includes a map of the facility alongside which is a taxiway marked “LCF capability.”

LCF stands for Large Cargo Freighter and is the designation for the heavily modified 747-400 freighter called the Dreamlifter, the whale-like cargo jet used to ferry sections of the 787 Dreamliner around the globe.

A site that wins the wing work only will still be required to have the airport, so sending the wing in the Dreamlifter appears to be an option under consideration.

Boeing estimates that its investment will include up to $6 billion in property improvements and up to $4 billion in machinery and equipment. However, Boeing wants the states vying for the work to pay a portion of that.

The “company preference is toward a location that will share in the cost of capital expenditures including acquiring site, constructing facility, building infrastructure and procuring equipment/tooling,” the documents state. Boeing lists the “desired incentives” it would like states to offer:

  • “Site at no cost, or very low cost, to project.”
  • “Facilities at no cost, or significantly reduced cost.”
  •  “Infrastructure improvements provided by the location.”

Additional desired incentives sought by Boeing include:

  • Assistance in recruiting, evaluating and training employees.
  • A low tax structure, with “corporate income tax, franchise tax, property tax, sales/use tax, business license/gross receipts tax, and excise taxes to be significantly reduced.”
  • “Accelerated permitting for site development, facility construction, and environmental permitting.”

Other factors that will be “significant” when Boeing makes its choice early next year include:

  • Low overall cost of doing business, “including local wages, utility rates, logistics costs, real estate occupancy costs, construction costs, applicable tax structure obligations.”
  • The quality, cost and productivity of the available workforce.
  • Predictability of utilities pricing and government regulation.

Washington is among the states that will submit responses to Boeing’s request by the Dec. 10 deadline specified in the document. Among the sites being considered are Everett; Long Beach, Calif.; Salt Lake City, Utah.; Huntsville, Ala. Also likely on Boeing’s list are North Charleston, S.C.; San Antonio, Texas; and St. Louis, Mo.

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