Benefits of tanker contract go beyond Boeing

EVERETT — The first refueling tanker built for the Air Force won’t roll off the assembly line for four more years.

But people here are already ecstatic about what the contract means for the region: more jobs and more dollars.

Experts estimate the 767-based tanker contract could mean as much as $693 million to the regional economy every year.

“This means huge economic gains for us in the Puget Sound,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

Boeing estimates its tanker supports 50,000 jobs across the nation, including 11,000 in the state. About 800 companies across 40 states will supply parts for the 767 tanker, said Dennis Muilenburg, president of Boeing’s defense division.

“From an economic standpoint, this is a very, very important program,” he said.

It’s not just aviation workers who benefit.

Once those dollars start flowing, they’ll ripple out into the communities and businesses that serve those workers.

That economic flicker might help light a fire in the economy.

The possibility that Boeing might have lost the contract had Everett leaders concerned about what that meant for the city’s long-term vitality.

Certainly, Boeing would have continued to work on its other airplanes, but this win secures future financial stability, Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson said.

He also said the decision inspires confidence, particularly for other companies considering whether to do business here and for existing ones to make an investment.

“This good news is just one piece — a significant one — that will help investors and other businesses look more favorably on Everett,” Stephanson said.

During a Seattle press conference after the decision, politicians couldn’t stop talking about what a victory it was for the American worker.

The decision continues America’s industrial base in aviation and “the importance of that industrial base to us and our national security,” Cantwell said.

Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks, piping in on speakerphone, called the decision a victory for the American people — and the American worker.

“I don’t know how they could have explained building the first 12 of those in Toulouse, France, in the worst economic crisis in the United States,” he said. “We need jobs here.”

Not winning the contract might have eventually meant Boeing would miss out on future tanker orders, said John Monroe, a retired Boeing executive who volunteers his expertise with the Snohomish County Economic Development Council.

Monroe, in a telephone interview, noted that Boeing didn’t make much money from its original 777 orders; it did on future versions of the airplane.

“You’ve got to get it from the start to get the troop carriers, the cargo carriers, the mission equipment control carriers,” he said. “It gives the (European Aeronautic Defence and Space) guys a little leg up on future business.”

Tom Wroblewski, the president of the Machinists union, agreed that the decision protects the 767 line, which only had existing orders for about two more years’ worth of work.

“This plane guarantees jobs,” he said. “We are ready and we are willing to start building tomorrow.”

Michelle Dunlop contributed to this story.

Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or dsmith@heraldnet.com

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