Economic alliance pushes multiple aerospace goals
Group spearheads efforts on workforce development
Those are among the key goals for Economic Alliance Snohomish County in coming months, working with other economic development and aerospace organizations in the county and state.
With its merger of the county's former Economic Development Council, South Snohomish County and Everett chambers of commerce complete, Economic Alliance Snohomish County immersed in the new goals and priorities the organization was formed to support.
Landing the manufacturing site for new 737MAX — the latest single-aisle model of Boeing's most popular aircraft ever produced for the airline market — means much more than just achieving that single goal, EASC Executive Director and CEO Troy McClelland told SCBJ in a recent interview.
“We completed our reorganization in August and already we've become deeply involved in working with groups such as the Washington Aerospace Partnership,” he said, noting that the new group was formed to unify leaders from business, labor and local government to work together to support and grow the state's important aerospace cluster.
McClelland said Washington state has been a center of excellence in aerospace manufacturing and innovation for nearly 100 years and the goal is ensure the region remains the world leader for aerospace design, development and manufacturing for the next 100 years.
“Working to win the site for the new 737 is an enormous opportunity in the short term but The Herald's recent editorial (Nov. 20) is on target, pointing out that current efforts are focused on much more than just keeping the 737MAX in Washington state, or even in Snohomish County,” he said.
McClelland noted that Snohomish County has the largest concentration of Boeing aircraft plants in the state and that, although the present Renton 737 plant is the leading contender for building the 737MAX, Boeing could decide to build it in a new location.
Options include the Renton plant, the Everett plant that builds the 747, 767, 777 and 787 or possibly a new location in Snohomish County.
“Our broader, long-range focus, however, is focused on aerospace workforce development, from short-term skills to four-year engineering degrees. We see this accomplished through partnerships with existing two and four year colleges and universities in our region including our local community colleges, the University of Washington Bothell as well as Washington State University's new presence in Everett and potentially even private institutions,” he said.
In late November, Gov. Chris Gregoire announced a $9.8 million plan she will present to the Legislature to boost aerospace training in the state, a move to encourage Boeing to keep the 737MAX project in Washington. If the new plane is manufactured here, she estimates it would support 20,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The plan would finance a new Governor's Aerospace Office but it would also expand aerospace curriculum at 12 high schools. Most of the financing for the plan would focus on $7.6 million to enroll 775 more engineering students at the University of Washington and Washington State University, particularly WSU's new Everett programs.
McClelland said Texas is a major competitor for the 737MAX production plant, but Washington continues to have the better high-tech educated workforce. The Seattle area has a 100-year history of building airplanes. The engineers, scientists, technicians and computer-aided design and manufacturing experts who know how to design airplanes and make complex production systems work are already here.
Throughout the state, an estimated 230,000 people work for Boeing, their suppliers or in the aerospace industry in general, McClelland said, ticking off facts from the Washington Aerospace Partnership.
“We're focusing on both short-term and long-term workforce development to create a technologically superior workforce from the factory floor up to engineering, ... people who can work with new composite materials and revolutionary technology such as biofuels,” he said.
Apprenticeship programs need to be created and expanded, including ones in Snohomish County, he said, so that such things as lean manufacturing techniques, composites development and other programs can be taught in high school and college.
Preparing for an expanded aerospace-trained workforce, he said, means reaching out to areas such as research and development, engineering, intellectual properties, computer sciences and the environment.
“The EASC is a very strong advocate for these types of programs, but much of the emphasis on technology and aerospace needs to be in high schools, with more emphasis on math, science, and skills needed for careers in robotics, motivating youth and preparing them for their future in the workplace,” he said.
“We're in a good position to continue to win aerospace projects but we have very specific things to address to maintain our role as a comprehensive place for aerospace manufacturing,” McClelland said, noting that the EASC is positioned to be a major player in meeting those goals.
• New jets define Everett's new era 12/29/11
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