State strategy at air show: More is better

SEATAC — Space might be the final frontier for Star Trek fans. In Olympia, it means jobs, and a chance to escape Boeing’s shadow.

The state updated its aerospace industry strategy Friday, and the plan emphasizes supporting growth in newer parts of the industry, such as aviation biofuels, composite-material manufacturing, unmanned aerial vehicles — or drones — and space.

“We think in any number of emerging markets, we’re on the leading edge,” Gov. Jay Inslee said.

Another of the strategy’s goals is helping Washingon-based companies become bigger parts of the supply chain for other airplane makers.

He hopes to do that this week at the Farnborough International Airshow in the United Kingdom.

Washington is sending a trade delegation of about 25 public officials and industry insiders to the biennial event.

Inslee plans to meet with high-level executives from several companies considering expanding or starting operations in Washington, said Alex Pietsch, the governor’s top adviser on aerospace. “I’m confident we’re going to see deals materialize in the next 30 to 180 days.”

Competition among states and countries for aerospace jobs has heated up in recent years. Before settling on Everett, Boeing held a highly- publicized nationwide search for a 777X assembly site.

Some industry insiders say the Chicago-based company was posturing to get better terms from the Machinists union, Some say the 777X line really could have ended up outside Washington.

Regardless, the process helped other states polish their pitches to aerospace companies.

“Everywhere you turn, people are saying, ‘What can you do for us? This state offered us so many millions of dollars,’?” Pietsch said.

“We may not always be able to beat other states on the cost of labor or cost of doing business, such as in the south, but Washington has long term” values those areas lack, such as its highly skilled workforce, he said.

Despite those challenges, Brian Bonlender, director of the state’s Department of Commerce, isn’t discouraged.

“We don’t have every single aerospace company in Washington yet, and until we do, we’ll be actively recruiting,” he said.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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