By Matt Tomsic
Published May 13, 2013
With the ink dry on the latest incentives for the Boeing Co., officials are projecting future growth at the company’s North Charleston campus while Washington state is also pushing to prompt Boeing’s growth there.
On Friday, Boeing officials and lawmakers had a theme throughout their remarks during a bill signing ceremony, saying they envision gathering again for similar announcements for the company’s third, fourth and fifth phases.
“We were given a test,” said Gov. Nikki Haley. “South Carolina just showed the world that we build airplanes, and we build them well.”
The company’s future growth here could take a variety of paths.
The second phase will add another 2,000 workers and another $1.1 billion investment in South Carolina, and Boeing expects some of those workers to be engineers and IT employees who will work at an IT center of excellence located in the Lowcountry.
Meanwhile, the company has put about 20 design jobs for its 737 MAX in North Charleston.
“That’s the first move outside the 787 program,” said Jack Jones, general manager and vice president of Boeing South Carolina. “So that’s significant. We looked around for areas that had the right skill and discipline. This area definitely has it. We had a pretty good infrastructure already developed; (it) made all the sense in the world to continue to grow the talent.”
The company is also evaluating sites to locate assembly of the 777X, a new derivative of the 777 that will have composite wings.
Saj Ahmad, an aerospace analyst, said assembly locations could be announced as late as 2014, and South Carolina could be in the running to attract the work.
“Given South Carolina’s expertise growth in composite technologies, they make a valid business case for producing the 777X’s composite wings,” Ahmad said in an email. “And the other key factor is South Carolina itself. Boeing didn’t select South Carolina for the 787 for no reason. It’s because they want to lessen the default ‘right’ that Washington gets assembly and wants each site to prove they are worthy candidates.”
Ahmad noted that moving a fraction of 737 MAX work outside Washington state reinforces the competition.
“This should give you an inkling as to Boeing’s long-term thinking,” Ahmad said. “That they are happy to send 737 MAX work away from Washington means that 777X is by no means assured Washington exclusivity.”
As South Carolina celebrated Boeing’s second phase last week, lawmakers in Washington state unveiled a plan to lure 777X assembly to their state.
On Thursday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the state will review aerospace incentives in the context of the 777X, improve efficiency and effectiveness of government services, and streamline the permitting process for the 777X.
“We will show that we know how to create the economic climate that makes Washington the best place to build the best airplanes and preserve thousands of family wage jobs for generations to come,” Inslee said in a news release. “The 777X is hugely important to the Washington aerospace industry as whole. Not only is this about maintaining the jobs of thousands of people who are already working on the 777 program in Everett and in the supply chain spread out across the state, it’s also about designing and assembling the next generation of Boeing’s twin-aisle, twin-engine workhorse in Washington, which will mean that our engineers and machinists will be on the cutting edge of the commercial aviation industry for many decades.”
Asked about Washington’s push for the 777X on Friday, Haley said South Carolina needs to continue supporting Boeing.
“I think every state has to do what they can,” Haley said. “Washington is doing what they have to do. We just continue to be a good partner with Boeing. This is now a time to show Boeing support and to keep talking to them. We talk to all of our manufacturers and our businesses to make sure they’re doing well. We’ll continue those conversations.”
Reach Matt Tomsic at 843-849-3144.