State’s aerospace rivals to attend governor’s summit

EVERETT — Guess who’s coming to the Governor’s Aerospace Summit here next month?

South Carolina. And Texas. And also Utah.

Folks from three of Washington’s biggest competitors for Boeing business will discuss their states’ emergent aerospace industries and efforts to land work on the 777X and other programs.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert are sending emissaries. Organizers are waiting to hear if South Carolina will be represented by a member of Gov. Nikki Haley’s administration or by one of the state’s analysts.

This is the eighth annual summit and the first featuring guests from states interested in boosting ties with Boeing and luring away a few of this area’s suppliers.

“This is an opportunity to hear first-hand what other states are doing in aerospace and to try to collaborate with these other states to build a strong industry in this country,” said Linda Lanham, executive director of the Aerospace Futures Alliance.

The industry trade association is sponsoring the annual event scheduled for Oct. 1 and 2 at Comcast Arena.

Inslee and Boeing, which is a member of the Aerospace Futures Alliance, have had a somewhat strained relationship over potential new pollution standards. Inslee will deliver the keynote address on the second day. Lanham insisted she didn’t book the out-of-state speakers to goad Inslee and doesn’t expect him to address the pollution issue.

“Absolutely not,” Lanham said. “I think the governor is really committed to the aerospace industry. This is his opportunity to show his commitment and to talk about how he is making sure we continue to have a viable aerospace industry in the state of Washington.”

Alex Pietsch, director of Inslee’s Office of Aerospace, said he’s not concerned with sharing the bill with out-of-state visitors.

“We’ll be interested in hearing what they are doing,” he said. “We’re certainly aware of the competition state-to-state and nation-to-nation. Maybe there’s something we can learn from them. I welcome the opportunity.”

The first day’s highlight is an afternoon roundtable featuring Pat Shanahan, senior vice-president and general manager of airplane programs for the Boeing Co.; Brad Tilden, chief executive officer of Alaska Airlines; and Olivier Zarrouati, chief executive officer and chairman of Zodiac Aerospace.

The second day kicks off with the panel of out-of-state representatives, followed by a presentation from Pietsch and Bob Drewel, president of the Washington Aerospace Partnership, about the state’s strategy to ensure that Boeing assembles the 777X here.

The two men might release results of a new study of the aerospace industry’s economic impact in Washington. A second analysis, of how the state ranks in terms of competitiveness with other states including South Carolina, is not due to be completed then.

Inslee will speak during the lunch hour and is likely to iterate the state’s effort in higher education, transportation and expedited permitting for a 777X facility.

The 777X is the code name for the next generation of Boeing’s hot-selling, Everett-built 777, the company’s second-biggest jetliner. Boeing has not formally launched the program, nor has it said where it will assemble the plane.

Formal launch of the 777X program is likely this year, perhaps at the Dubai Air Show in November. A decision on the jet’s assembly location would likely come later.

The 777X will have composite-fiber wings, like the Boeing 787, but unlike the Dreamliner the fuselage will be aluminum, like the present 777. Lawmakers in Washington are anxious to secure assembly of the new wing here. In July, Inslee instructed the state Department of Commerce to designate potential 777X sites as “projects of statewide significance” to help expedite permitting.

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

More info online

For more information about the Governor’s Aerospace Summit on Oct. 1-2 at Comcast Arena in Everett, go to the website of the Aerospace Futures Alliance at www.afa-wa.com.

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