Dull report from Washington Council on Aerospace no way to keep aerospace jobs thriving

  • Sat Jan 16th, 2010 11:32pm
  • News

By Jerry Cornfield, Herald Columnist

A high-powered group with a will to keep aerospace thriving in Washington needs to find a better way to show off its work.

Wednesday morning the Washington Council on Aerospace missed an opportunity to show skeptical and indifferent legislators what has evolved since Boeing chose South Carolina for its second 787 production line.

The council was delivering its first report, and underwhelming would be an overstatement on the presentation from Rogers Weed, the state Department of Commerce director tasked with steering the high-powered panel the past eight months.

Weed, an engaging and energetic purveyor of promise and progress, left the gung-ho out of his performance this day. And the report he handed in needed a lot of gung-ho to get excited about.

Its collage of research is assembled into a manual of many remodels and minor additions to existing policies. By design, it mentions and moves past the controversial subjects of labor strife and business costs.

While scattered throughout the pages are suggestions of some things to do, the council doesn’t ask the Legislature or the governor to do any of them right now.

It landed with a thud and left lawmakers with an impression that nothing significant got done by the council.

Weed can’t be blamed for the thud. He and a deputy director showed up, but the rest of the council did not.

If they wanted their work ignored, that was the way to do it, skipping out on what will possibly be the only time their achievements are measured this session.

They weren’t there to defend their work and explain why they dealt with some subjects and not others. Their most important accomplishment could have been simply sitting in the same room.

With membership from unions, Boeing, lawmakers of both parties, plus the savvy presidents of the University of Washington and Washington State University, this council’s destiny was never about groundbreaking initiatives but about breaking ground on conversation.

They found a way around and over — though not collapsing — the immense barricades keeping Machinists, Boeing and political leaders from forging an agreement on how to improve training of aerospace workers and exchanges of research between industry and universities.

The next generation of designers and their designs will come from somewhere, and this council planted seeds for it to happen in Washington — not bad in a year that left a bitter taste in mouths of so many lawmakers, union members and Boeing execs.

But Wednesday, when no one from Boeing, no one from the Machinists and no one from either university showed up, everyone on the panel noticed. Appearances are important, and this left the impression that 2010 is going to be 2009 all over again.

The council plans to continue its efforts this year — maybe next time they will find a better way to show it.

Read political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, at www.heraldnet.com/petridish. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.