Politicians make plans to snag the 777X

Early in his first term, Gov. Jay Inslee faces a big test: Can he help convince the Boeing Co. to build the updated 777X jetliner in Washington?

All eyes will be on Olympia in coming weeks, even as leaders in Snohomish County say they, too, are responding to Boeing’s needs.

“I feel like we are in a good position here,” Inslee said in an interview last week. But “we have to bring our A game.”

Boeing’s board on Wednesday gave the OK for the company’s sales team to begin offering the latest version of the Everett-built 777 to customers. The next step will be for the board to approve the 777X’s formal program launch, which is expected later this year. That’s when Boeing could announce a competition of sorts for where the 777X will be built.

After the company board’s move Wednesday, Inslee said he’ll soon unveil a comprehensive aerospace strategy for Washington. The governor said he has been working on the plan with the Washington Aerospace Partnership, a coalition of labor, business and government representatives.

“The paramount goal of this effort is to win the 777X for Washington,” Inslee said.

In February, Inslee outlined state transportation and education initiatives aimed at appeasing Boeing. Many of Inslee’s efforts, though, are hostage to the budget, which has lawmakers returning to Olympia for a special session.

“We need the Legislature to act this year on both transportation and education,” said Inslee, who vowed to do what he can to push those measures through. “Next year is not good enough.”

Company lobbyists are among those pushing for an $8.4 billion proposal that would be largely paid for by a 10-cent increase in the gas tax and higher vehicle registration fees.

“I think it helps (Boeing) make a decision, definitely,” said Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee and chief architect of the package.

Doing nothing is a bad idea, said Rep. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, a vice chairman of the House roads panel.

“I think it puts us at risk” of losing the 777 competition, “but I don’t think it is a deal-breaker at this point,” he said.

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson supports Inslee’s transportation initiatives but shares Liias’ sentiment. In particular, Stephanson is pushing for improvements to the U.S. 2 trestle, enhancements to three intersections between the Port of Everett and Boeing, as well as the addition of an interchange at the Boeing Freeway and Hardeson Road.

However, Boeing’s potential 777X expansion plans at Paine Field in Everett could go through without any of the new transportation initiatives, Stephanson said. The city has already conducted specific traffic studies with respect to the 777X.

“Even though those (proposed) projects are important, we’ve got the immediate need covered,” he said.

Stephanson and Inslee both favor education efforts like a plan to add an electrical engineering program at Washington State University’s Everett location. Other initiatives include expanding science, technology, engineering and math education grants and funding recently added engineering slots at the state universities.

Lawmakers also will consider how to fund a more direct tie to industry: the governor’s office of aerospace. The Senate budget eliminated those funds. The House, however, not only planned for the salary of the office’s director, Alex Pietsch, but also included an extra $200,000 for the office.

That money would be matched 2 to 1 by the Washington Aerospace Partnership, a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization Pietsch helps direct. Neither Pietsch nor Inslee offered details about how the $200,000, which increases to $600,000 with the match, would be spent. The request for $200,000 is more of a placeholder to make sure the state can address needs that arise for the 777X effort, Pietsch said.

“It’s a very small investment on what would be a very big return,” Inslee said in an interview Wednesday.

Herald reporter Jerry Cornfield contributed to this report.

Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454; mdunlop@heraldnet.com.

More in Herald Business Journal

Teddy, an English bulldog, models Zentek Clothing’s heat regulating dog jacket. (Ian Terry / The Herald)
Everett clothing company keeps your dog cool and stylish

Zentek uses space-age fabrics to moderate the temperature of pets and now humans.

Everett engineers learn lessons from Mexico City catastrophe

Structural scientists went to help after the September earthquake there and studied the damage.

Boeing raises dividend 20%, continues stock buyback program

The manufacturer said it has repurchased $9.2 billion worth of its shares this year.

Canada’s fighter jets will have to be good for its economy

The new stipulation could impact Boeing if its trade dispute with Bombardier is still alive.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Merger would make Providence part of health care behemoth

Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension Health are said to be talking. Swedish would also be affected.

Hospital companies merge as insurers encroach on their turf

An anticipated deal between Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension is only the latest.

DaVita to sell off medical groups including The Everett Clinic

Another round of health care consolidation means The Everett Clinic could soon get new ownership.

Engine trouble hits Air New Zealand’s 787 Dreamliners

A Rolls-Royce engine was shut down and was afterward found to be seriously damaged.

Ex-Facebook VP: Social media is destroying society

“In the back, deep, deep recesses of our minds, we kind of knew something bad could happen.”

Most Read