Boeing on upswing provides Obama with a backdrop for jobs message

  • Wed Feb 15th, 2012 8:42pm
  • News

By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer

EVERETT — When President Barack Obama arrives Friday at the Boeing Co.’s factory here, he’ll see a manufacturer on the upswing, with jet orders galore and new employees coming in the door every week.

It’s precisely the picture of success the president has been promoting: an American manufacturer hiring workers at home rather than sending jobs abroad.

Obama started a three-day political trip, which includes eight fundraisers, Wednesday in Milwaukee, Wis., where he toured Master Lock, a manufacturer that has brought jobs back to the U.S. from China.

“Manufacturing is coming back,” Obama said. “The economy is getting stronger.”

Here in the Puget Sound region, Boeing is booming, having added 8,361 jobs in Washington last year. Those jobs are in support of the company’s plan to increase aircraft production at the company’s widebody jet site in Everett and the single-aisle 737 assembly facility in Renton.

In Everett, where the president will tour the 787 line and deliver a speech Friday morning, the lessons of outsourcing are well-known. Dozens of 787s sit around Paine Field, waiting to be reworked and brought up to specifications for delivery, the result, in part, of complications with Boeing’s global supply chain. Those troubles led to more than three years of delay in the Dreamliner program and cost Boeing billions of dollars.

Boeing’s chief executive, Jim McNerney, acknowledged the company’s over-extension at a recent event organized by General Electric.

“We, lemminglike, over the last 15 years extended our supply chains a little too far globally in the name of low cost,” McNerney said, as reported by Reuters. “We lost control in some cases over quality and service when we did that, we underestimated in some cases the value of our workers back here.”

Here in the Puget Sound region, skilled Machinists union members working on the troubled 787 Dreamliner line and the revamped 747-8 program “have been bailing Boeing out,” noted Scott Hamilton, an analyst with Issaquah-based Leeham Co.

“There are several high-profile companies that have decided recently that they like American workers after all,” Hamilton said.

The skill level of workers here offsets the higher cost of doing business, he said.

Obama has called for tax cuts to further offset the cost of keeping manufacturing jobs at home, calling for higher taxes for companies that move overseas. However, in Wisconsin on Wednesday, Obama acknowledged that many factories have closed, their jobs have gone overseas and a lot of them “are not going to come back.”

“In a global economy, some companies will always find it more profitable to pick up and do business in some other part of the world. That’s just a fact,” Obama said. “But that doesn’t mean we have to sit by and settle for a lesser future.”

Another highlight of the president’s address here likely will be the landmark agreement struck in late-2010 by Boeing and the Machinists. The company agreed to build the re-engined 737 MAX in Renton as part of a four-year contract with the union. In exchange for that promise, the Machinists asked that a labor complaint be dropped over Boeing’s decision to put a second 787 line in South Carolina rather than Everett.

Gov. Chris Gregoire noted the labor agreement, as well as Boeing’s large backlog of jet orders, in remarks Wednesday about the president’s upcoming visit.

“Boeing and aerospace are the backbone of manufacturing in this state and the backbone of the struggling middle class, and the president knows that,” she said. “The success that Boeing and Machinists had in reaching a labor agreement early and ensuring even more production here in Washington state are helping our state come back and ultimately will help the country do the same.”

Herald writers Rikki King and Jerry Cornfield contributed to this report, which includes information from the Associated Press.

What to expect on Friday

Expect delays and some road and facility closures Friday during President Barack Obama’s visit to Boeing’s Everett factory.

The president’s speech at Boeing is closed to the public, but the event will be broadcast by local TV channels.

Even catching sight of Air Force One may prove difficult.

No one will be allowed to congregate on public roadways or highways, Snohomish County sheriff’s bureau chief Kevin Prentiss said. All private property, including Boeing, will be off-limits.

As long as Air Force One is on Boeing property or airport property, all nearby public areas will be closely monitored, Prentiss said.

If people plan to travel near Paine Field on Friday, they should expect road closures and delays, said trooper Keith Leary of the Washington State Patrol. Drivers might want to plan alternate routes.

Leary and other local police and fire officials declined comment about their involvement in Friday’s events. Many said their efforts were still in the planning stages.

At the airport, the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour and its parking lot, including a viewing area, will be closed. Normal operations resume Saturday.

The Federal Aviation Administration also will impose restrictions on airplanes and other activity at Paine Field, which will be “frozen” from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. No aircraft will be allowed to move anywhere at the airport — this includes taxiing or repositioning airplanes. Hangar doors must be closed, with no vehicles in front.

And no one is allowed to be on rooftops during the times specified.