Gregoire’s goal at air show: Bring home business

While the Boeing Co. tries to win more jet customers at the upcoming Farnborough International Airshow, Gov. Chris Gregoire will be there with her own sales pitch to companies: Do more business in Washington.

“We’ve got the largest, most integrated supply chain in the world building the best airplanes in the world,” Gregoire said in an interview last week. “We know who our number one is, it’s Boeing.”

But there’s always more business to win, especially for many of the state’s smaller aerospace companies. That’s why the governor is leading a trade delegation to her first Farnborough show, which is held alternating years with the Paris Air Show. The air show is July 9-15 outside London.

Ten Washington aerospace suppliers, along with representatives from educational institutions, counties and airports, will make up the governor’s delegation. Another 50 aerospace companies in Washington will be on hand for the air show with booths of their own. This is the largest contingent from Washington to attend Farnborough, Monica Wiedrich, of the state Department of Commerce, told members of the governor’s aerospace council at a recent meeting.

In 2005, Gregoire attended the Paris Air Show with a plan to expand Washington’s aerospace supply chain. Boeing had announced in late 2003 that the company would assemble the new 787 in Everett. Since the 2005 air show, the number of aerospace-related companies in Washington has grown by 30 percent to 720, Gregoire said.

At Farnborough, Gregoire’s message to companies that don’t have a presence in Washington will be: “They need to be located immediately adjacent to Boeing.”

With work on the re-engined 737 MAX assured for Renton, Gregoire will make the case to suppliers for being closer to assembly there.

Unlike the past few air shows, Gregoire also will head to Farnborough to promote a workforce that’s on more stable footing with Boeing. Late last year, the local district of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers reached a deal early with Boeing that ensures labor peace for four more years.

“That historic contract has meant the world — it means stability,” Gregoire said.

Aside from proximity to Boeing, the state also has a skilled workforce to support the aerospace industry, Gregoire said. Over the past few years, Washington has stepped up to train more engineers and production workers to keep up with Boeing’s need.

“Our major competition is the South,” she said. “They don’t have the trained workforce we do.”

Washington won’t be the only state with a governor or a booth at the air show. States like South Carolina, Alabama, Florida and North Carolina will be on hand, as well. Governors from several states also will attend.

In 2010, budget issues kept Washington from sending any state officials to Farnborough. Washington’s presence then was outshone by Alabama’s.

At the time, Alabama hoped that Airbus parent company EADS would win a $35 billion U.S. Air Force contract to build aerial-refueling tankers in Mobile. Boeing and Washington won that one. But Alabama also could shine again this year at the show if Airbus moves ahead with a plan to build A320 jets there. An announcement could come as soon as Monday.

Washington’s goal is to generate $10 million in long-term sales for the delegation of companies attending Farnborough with the governor, Commerce’s Wiedrich said.

Some of the companies that traveled with Gregoire to Paris last year already have seen a return on their effort. Tom Brosius, general manager of ORION Aerospace in Federal Way, noted on the governor’s travel blog that ORION was able to develop relationships with companies at the Paris air show it previously had been unable to work with.

“One of those relations has resulted in two major contracts worth more than $4 million over five years,” he said.

Similarly, TLG Aerospace in Seattle said that since attending the Paris Air show last year with Gregoire, the company has been working with new clients and has new business proposals valued at $3 million.

Gregoire has meetings with representatives of Rolls-Royce, Safran Aerospace, BAE Systems, Raytheon and Dassault. Her trade delegation not only will attend the air show, they’ll visit Bombardier’s Belfast, Northern Ireland, facility, Mukilteo-based Electroimpact’s site in Broughton and the Airbus A380 wings facility there.

Governor’s itinerary

Wednesday: Gov. Chris Gregoire and a delegation of 10 Washington companies and other officials assemble in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to visit aerospace and other technology companies there.

Thursday: The governor calls on Bombardier of Canada in Belfast.

Friday: In Broughton, Wales, the governor visits a factory owned by Electroimpact of Mukilteo, as well as an Airbus plant.

July 9: The governor particpates in the opening ceremony for the Washington State Pavilion at the 2012 Farnborough International Airshow near London.

July 9-15: Farnborough International Airshow.

July 11: The delegation has meetings in London with technology companies, including some based in Washington.

Full itinerary:

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