Boeing shifts research jobs to South, Midwest

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Boeing announced Thursday that it is shifting hundreds of jobs to Alabama, Missouri and South Carolina as part of a restructuring of its U.S. research operations over the next two years.

The Chicago-based aerospace company said the reorganization will result in fewer research jobs in Washington state and California and is being undertaken to better meet the needs of its commercial airplane, military and space and security units.

The announcement comes as those same states, and several others, are competing to assemble Boeing’s 777X passenger plane — a much-sought-after facility that could generate thousands of jobs.

Boeing spokesman Daryl Stephenson said the restructuring of the company’s research operations has been in the works for several years and is unrelated to the new airplane or Boeing’s contract negotiations with a Seattle area machinists union.

The research restructuring will add 300-400 employees each in the St. Louis area, Huntsville, Ala., and North Charleston, S.C. Research jobs will decline by 800-1,200 in the Seattle area and by 200-300 in southern California, the company said.

The restructuring is to start early next year and be complete by 2015.

After the changes, Boeing will still have about 4,000 employees in its research and technology operations, but they will no longer be concentrated predominantly on the West Coast. The Seattle and St. Louis sites will have the most employees, and each site will have specific research tasks.

The Alabama site is to focus on simulation and decision analytics and metals and chemical technology. The southern California location is to focus on flight sciences, electronics and networked systems. The St. Louis site is to conduct research on systems technology, digital aviation and support technology, and metallic and fabrication development.

The South Carolina location is to focus on manufacturing technology, and the Seattle site is to focus on the integration of manufacturing technology.

Boeing plans to announce a decision by early next year on where it will assemble the 777X airplane. States are offering billions of dollars of tax breaks, property and customized employee training as part of the competition to land the assembly plant.

Unlike for the 777X, Stephenson said Boeing did not seek out incentives from states for the research jobs. But some states, such as Missouri, are nonetheless offering incentives if Boeing meets job targets.

Earlier this year, Boeing announced that it also was restructuring its information technology unit.

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