“We are investing in our people, but we are also investing in our future,” Gregoire told a crowd gathered Thursday inside Everett Community College's Aviation Maintenance and Technical School at Paine Field.
Gregoire's announcement comes as Boeing Co. leaders make up their minds where to put a second production line for their 787 Dreamliner jet. Gregoire used discretionary Workforce Investment Act funds from the federal government for the one-time $1.5 million allocation. Much of that money could end up here in Snohomish County.
About $600,000 of that will be allotted to the new Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center, which encompasses training sites in Spokane and at Paine Field. Since the Everett site will serve more people, it will receive $450,000 of that $600,000, said Linda Lanham, who directs the Aerospace Futures Alliance, an industry-based group that has lobbied for increased aerospace training in the state.
“We're really happy to see this moving forward,” Lanham said.
The Aerospace Futures Alliances leases the Paine Field training center from Snohomish County, which counts remodeling and upgrades toward the lease costs. The center at Paine Field was established earlier this year. And the Aerospace Futures Alliance has been working to secure a grant to provide additional funding for training. Lanham expects to hear soon on the grant. She hopes to have the center up and running by the first of the year.
The governor's allocation also includes $500,000 for buying new equipment not only at the training centers but at state-run training programs.
“I don't know how we can have the best work force with aged equipment,” Gregoire said.
The remaining funds will be used for career development programs in schools, for training coordination and to develop ways to link research with training.
The governor's decision was applauded by industry, education and government representatives alike.
“I thank Gov. Gregoire for supporting our efforts and stepping forward to help us maintain our competitive edge when it comes to building commercial airplanes,” Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon said in a statement. “We know we make the best commercial airplanes in the world, and we want to protect those thousands of jobs at all costs.”
The state has about 80,000 people working in the aerospace industry, including roughly 35,000 in Snoho- mish County, the location for Boeing's widebody jet factory.
Boeing has been considering other locations for its second 787 assembly line besides Everett, where the first assembly line remains. The company took “procedural” steps in applying for permits to expand its South Carolina 787 parts factory but says no decision has been made.
In the past, the company has complained about the state's unemployment insurance and workers compensation rates as well as its aerospace education efforts. Earlier this month, Gregoire said she would propose in the next session of the Legislature extending tax breaks that were given to aerospace-related companies as part of the state's plan to land the first 787 assembly line.
Boeing is expected to name the site of its second 787 assembly line by year's end.
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