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In our view / Boeing's tanker win

A sobering dose of relief

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Our region is awash in pride today over the Boeing Co.’s victory in the Air Force tanker contest. After years of uncertainty, it now looks likely that the 767 production line in Everett will stay busy for another decade, supporting thousands of local jobs and much-needed economic activity. Indeed, this is a time to celebrate.
Still, the long tanker saga provided some sobering moments that all of us, especially policymakers, would do well to remember.
Juxtapose today’s euphoria with the stunned disbelief we felt three years ago when Boeing’s competitor, a partnership of Northrop Grumman and Europe’s EADS, was announced as the contract winner. The end of a venerable airframe was suddenly in sight. Jobs that belonged here would go to France and Alabama instead.
Boeing’s decision to locate a second 787 production line in South Carolina served up a second dose of reality. The deep well of aerospace manufacturing jobs that had fed the region for generations could no longer be taken for granted.
So even in the glow of Thursday’s good news, we must guard against complacency. As important as keeping the 767 line going is, the next generations of Boeing commercial jetliners will mean far more to our continued prosperity. In an increasingly competitive world, the state must do all it can to support a healthy aerospace sector.
In Olympia, that means making far-sighted decisions regarding education, transportation infrastructure and maintaining a competitive business climate.
Higher education opportunities must be expanded, not reduced. New engineers must be produced to replace the thousands who are nearing retirement. Deep cuts currently under consideration represent a short-term budget fix that would do long-term damage.
Similarly, highway and transit funding must keep pace with an increasing population, ensuring the mobility of workers and freight. And business costs must remain reasonably competitive with those in other states.
Boeing’s tanker victory showed again why the company is a regional asset we mustn’t lose. While most analysts were predicting EADS would win the competition again, Boeing made a convincing case that its NewGen tanker was the most capable choice for the military and the best long-term value for taxpayers. The company’s reputation for cutting-edge engineering and quality manufacturing clearly remains the best in the industry. It’s why we’re all feeling so proud today.
We’re also feeling relieved, because we know how we’d feel if the Air Force had made a different decision. The design and production of Boeing airplanes belongs in Puget Sound — now, and for generations to come. Let’s not lose it to overconfidence or complacency.

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