Boeing mum on S. Carolina output

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — A top Boeing official said Thursday that 2013 was a transitional year for the aeronautics giant in South Carolina and also urged the state to spend more on math and science training in its schools.

Jack Jones, a Boeing vice president and general manager for its South Carolina operations that employ 6,700 people, met with reporters to review the company’s progress in the state during the past year.

It was a year when Boeing, which already operates a massive plant to assembly the company’s 787 Dreamliners, announced it was investing an additional $1 billion and would create 2,000 new jobs in South Carolina over eight years.

Also during the year, the company also broke ground on a new Propulsion South Carolina facility where engineers will design engine air inlets for Boeing’s 737 MAX. That’s the first non-787 work that employees in South Carolina will do. That’s in additional to expansions in several buildings on the company’s campus to handle the 787 work.

Jones noted that at the beginning of the year, Boeing companywide was producing five 787s a month. By year’s end, that had doubled.

“It was absolutely transitional. Quite frankly when you think about a team that four years ago had never built airplanes we had no idea whether we could develop the talent that quickly and we did,” he said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the team.”

Jones said he could not discuss specific production figures in South Carolina before the company releases its earnings figures next month. Boeing broke ground on its 787 assembly plant back in 2009. It was completed in 2011 and the first 787 rolled off the assembly line the following year.

Boeing plans to increase production to 12 of the 787s a month in 2016.

The North Charleston site has been increasing its production rate gradually during the months since it started production.

Now, “we’re going to have two full years of the same rate,” Jones said. “This is where you really stabilize the production system, really drive the productivity and bring down the learning curve so we’re excited.”

Jones said he and other officials of companies that have plants in South Carolina like BMW and Michelin have been pushing for the state to invest more in math and science education.

He said while Boeing is getting the people it needs now “we want to make sure that pipeline is there.”

Without a pipeline, he said, such companies will have to go outside the state for their talent.

“You do not want to do that. The state does not want to do that,” he warned. “It’s really critical the state invest in science, technology, engineering and math. It’s the basis of everything we do.”

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