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Dan Catchpole | dcatchpole@heraldnet.com
Published: Monday, September 28, 2009, 12:02 p.m.

Governor makes case to Boeing for second 787 line

Gov. Chris Gregoire recently made her case to the Boeing Co. for putting its second 787 production line in the state.

Don't expect the state, however, to roll out another $3 billion tax incentive plan like the one used in 2003 to secure the first 787 final assembly site in Everett.

Without a concrete outline of Boeing's requirements for a second line, the governor focused on what Washington already does for aerospace and how it stacks up to potential competitor states.

“Boeing can site a second 787 assembly line in Washington with confidence that the world's best airplanes can be built at a competitive cost,” Gregoire wrote in her business case.

Boeing is expected to announce the location for its second line by the end of the year. Washington isn't the only state putting together a case. After Boeing bought its supplier Vought's 787 parts factory in South Carolina, the state became a contender for the second line.

Just last week, Charleston Rep. Chip Limehouse told The Post and Courier that the state is offering Boeing a deal “too good to pass up.”

“We are poised for one of the major economic boons our country has ever seen,” Limehouse, a Republican, told the publication. “This is going to be our gold rush, if it happens.”

But Washington's Gregoire argues that Washington offers an attractive business climate with low production risks for Boeing. Her business case cites several recent reports that rank Washington's business climate favorably. Forbes magazine bumped Washington up to second best state to do business in the country. And Moody's estimates that Washington will emerge from the recession by year's end, six months ahead of South Carolina.

The governor's report also highlights the state's skilled workforce as a means of lowering risk to Boeing. Workers in Everett already have an advantage over workers elsewhere when it comes to the steep learning curve associated with producing a new airplane. That alone could save the Boeing Co. thousands of hours of labor and costly errors.

But Boeing has lodged its share of complaints against that same skilled workforce. The company, and some of its customers, have criticized the unions, particularly the Machinists, for long strikes. The Machinists staged a 57-day strike last year.

Labor relations isn't a topic that Gregoire or Washington can change. Machinists in South Carolina voted out of union representation earlier this month. For their part, Machinists leaders say they're committed to improving their relationship with Boeing.


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