Inslee unveils plan to build 777X
Looking to protect and grow the state’s aerospace industry for decades to come, Gov. Jay Inslee aims to persuade the Boeing Co. to design and manufacture the 777X in Washington.
The governor announced an aerospace industry strategy on May 9 in Mukilteo at the Future of Flight Aviation Center.
Inslee’s plan to secure the 777X, Boeing’s anticipated new airplane, would mean growth for 1,250 aerospace-related companies across the state that are Boeing suppliers, he said.
“We are committed for the next several decades to remain the No. 1 aerospace center in the world,” Inslee said. “By pedigree, by history and by our vision we can do that. I’m confident of it.”
The 777X is the next generation of Boeing’s twin-engine, twin-isle jet. The company is expected to consider all options – in Everett, North Charleston, S.C. or elsewhere – before deciding where to assemble the 777X as well as its carbon-fiber wing.
Boeing is also developing a new derivative of the 737, the 737 MAX, a more fuel efficient, single-isle jet, and has already committed to build it in Washington.
In his speech on Thursday atop the Strato Deck at the Future of Flight Aviation Center, overlooking Paine Field and the Boeing plant, Inslee outlined in four parts a comprehensive strategy to make Washington more attractive to aerospace companies:
• Grow and diversify Washington state’s aerospace industries – Help existing aerospace companies in the state thrive while also convincing new companies to locate here and create more jobs.
• Cultivate a talented aerospace workforce – Meet the industry’s workforce demand across all levels, from improving training and education programs to inspiring students to pursue aerospace careers.
• Foster a culture of aerospace innovation – Support expanded research in the industry to increase technological advances and bring them to market, even beyond airplanes.
• Strengthen Washington’s support chain for aerospace – Organize an industrial support network across the state, to provide the infrastructure, tax policies and regulatory framework necessary for aerospace companies to prosper.
“To stay on top of this industry, we have got to continue to compete aggressively,” Inslee said. “We have to build on our strengths, and not just maintain our current situation if we’re going to grow in aerospace leadership.”
His strategies include transportation and education improvements, as well as streamlined land-use permitting processes and better relationships between organized labor and management.
Inslee said he’ll work closely with the state Legislature in special session, which started Monday in Olympia, to implement some of those strategies, starting with a transportation plan to move jet engines on state highways.
Inslee’s plan is backed by the Washington Aerospace Partnership, a collaboration of industry leaders and state and local governments, including the city of Everett.
Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson was there to help unveil the governor’s plan. He is leading efforts to streamline any permits or regulations Boeing would need for the 777X assembly.
“We will provide a clear and timely development path necessary to expedite the assembly of 777X in Everett,” Stephanson said.
“Everett and our community leaders have always been arm-in-arm with our federal, state and regional partners. We stand with you again, our sleeves are rolled up to demonstrate to the world one more time that Washington state is where the best planes in the world are built.”
Edmonds Mayor and trustee of the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County Dave Earling was pleased to hear what Inslee had to say.
“Boeing and aerospace industry manufacturing are critical to Snohomish County, the state and the northwest,” Earling said. “Having the governor take the lead to maintain and expand jobs through the 777X is a significant step that will benefit our region.”
Inslee also has a supporter in Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine, who continues to advocate for aerospace manufacturing at Paine Field. Marine, however, worries that Boeing’s 777X contract will go to South Carolina.
“I am very glad that he is taking a lead role in aerospace manufacturing,” Marine said. “It’s something that I think we all need to speak with one voice. Boeing is investing a lot in South Carolina. I’m glad he understands the importance of the situation.”
Washington’s biggest competition for aerospace right now is South Carolina, where Boeing expanded its 787 assembly in recent years.
The company now has plans to invest an additional $1.1 billion and hire 2,000 more employees in Charleston, S.C. by 2020. South Carolina is providing $120 million in incentives for upfront expansion costs.
Inslee’s plan doesn’t have tax incentives like South Carolina’s, though the state provided $3.2 billion in incentives to get the 787 contract. He said the transportation and education initiatives before the Legislature will be key to winning the 777X.
Inlsee said he is confident Washington will win over Boeing again, just as the state did with the 787 Dreamliner, the KC-767 refueling tanker and, most recently, the 737 MAX.
“This is the take-off of our efforts to make sure that the 777X has its first take-off from right here,” Inslee said. “I believe we’ve got the talent to do that.
“We know how to create the economic climate that makes Washington the best place to build aircraft and preserve thousands of great family-wage jobs in our state.”
Edmonds Beacon Editor Pat Ratliff contributed to this report.