Renton official named director of new state Aerospace Office

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday chose a man who helped the Boeing Co. expand in Renton to be the first director of the state’s new aerospace office.

Alex Pietsch, who now runs the Department of Community and Economic Development for the city of Renton, where the Boeing Co. builds the 737, will be responsible for crafting a strategy to support an industry with 650 aerospace companies.

As director, Pietsch also will chair the governor’s aerospace council, which is comprised of representatives of aerospace firms, the Machinists union, community colleges, the state’s two research universities and the Legislature.

And he will serve as executive director of the Washington Aerospace Partnership, an alliance of government, labor and business organizations, which was formed to help convince federal officials to award the contract for aerial-refueling tankers to Boeing. That alliance is funded with money from the private and public sectors.

“Alex comes highly recommended and brings to the role extensive experience in economic development and in working with the aerospace industry,” Gregoire said in a statement. “He knows the importance of keeping our state economically competitive, and I look forward to his guidance and expertise as we continue to build our important aerospace sector.”

In November, Gregoire outlined an initiative to convince Boeing to keep 737 work in Washington after the launch of the new 737 MAX model. It included creation of the aerospace office to enhance Washington’s competitiveness in the global aerospace industry. She also said the director would be a cabinet-level position.

The idea of having a permanent specialist in state government dedicated to aerospace has been around since 2003, when the state was competing to land the 787 line for Everett. But the position was never created.

Pietsch began at Renton in 2001 as director of economic development. Two years later, he was promoted to his current job. In his tenure, Pietsch has worked closely with Boeing as it expanded work at the Renton production facility.

He is a member of the Prosperity Partnership Regional Economic Strategy Technical Advisory Group and Aerospace Cluster Working Group. He also serves on the Regional Staff Committee at the Puget Sound Regional Council, which is a founding member of the Washington Aerospace Partnership.

Pietsch will begin work March 28 and will earn $159,080 annually with $65,000 of it covered by a contribution from the Washington Aerospace Partnership.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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