$2M loan OK’d for 777X Paine Field site

EVERETT — A state board approved a $2 million loan Thursday to boost Paine Field’s chance of becoming the manufacturing hub for the Boeing Co.’s future 777X jetliner.

Snohomish County plans to use the money, plus a $2 million local match, to prepare 42 acres of the Paine Field Aerospace Business Park for building the twin-aisle jet.

The investment is part of a larger game plan for landing the 777X that Gov. Jay Inslee announced in July. The effort includes regional road improvements, new port facilities and workforce training.

“The people of Snohomish County build the best airplanes in the world,” County Executive John Lovick said in a press release. “We very much appreciate the leadership of Governor Inslee in partnering with us to move forward to preserve jobs and further develop our aerospace economy.”

The state Community Economic Revitalization Board approved the loan. Approval is contingent upon the county completing pre-contract requirements. These include an agreement from future aerospace tenants to create at least 50 jobs and private investment of at least $20 million.

The money is intended to build upon the county’s aerospace business cluster. The state Department of Commerce also is considering designating the effort as a project of statewide significance, which would expedite the permitting process.

The 777X is the code name for the next generation of Boeing’s hot-selling, Everett-built 777, the company’s second-biggest jetliner. Boeing has not formally launched the 777X program, but customers are being signed and the updated plane is seen as crucial to counter the comparable Airbus A350-1000, which is in development.

Boeing has indicated no preference, so far, for where it plans on designing and assembling the 777X.

Inslee’s plan is aimed not only at swaying Boeing’s 777X decision but also at shaping the state aerospace industry for decades to come. If successful, the initiative would boost 1,250 aerospace-related companies in the state that are suppliers to Boeing.

The aerospace effort is being coordinated by Alex Pietsch, director of the governor’s Office of Aerospace. The governor’s plan comes with the backing of the Washington Aerospace Partnership, a consortium of state and local governments and industry representatives led by former Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel.

“State investment in this project sends a signal to the aerospace industry that Washington is ready to do what it takes to compete,” said Brian Bonlender, director of the Washington State Department of Commerce. “These funds will prepare acreage that is adjacent to the Paine Field main runway and has unparalleled access to the Boeing Everett manufacturing campus — a perfect location to grow our state’s aerospace manufacturing sector.”

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