In Snohomish County, aerospace powers the economy. The public interest and the interests of William Boeing’s company (mostly) align, coupled with a diversified sector of 200 aerospace suppliers extending from Bothell to Arlington.
All the while, business and regional politicos suffer gut-stabbing anxiety that the state is shadow boxing. The Chicago-based multinational, they fear, already has made up its mind to assign the 777X assembly to South Carolina.
Time to separate the wheat from the ambiguous rhetoric, and ask Boeing what it specifically wants. Washington won’t pay any price, but it will pay, and it will be fiercely competitive.
As the Puget Sound Business Journal’s Steve Wilhelm reports, the threat of a South Carolina exodus has kindled out-of-the-box remedies. Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, hopes to make Washington a right-to-work state. Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, offered a pitch-perfect response.
“If you want to lower the living standard of working people in this state, that’s one way to do it.”
As Sells told The Herald, it’s better to concentrate on how to work together on economic issues, instead of finding ways to drive in the wedges. Do Northwesterners want to preserve the dignity and rights of a highly skilled workforce?
This year, legislators continued to elbow policies and budgets (notwithstanding a Senate-fumbled transportation plan) to ensure that the state’s largest private employer remain content.
Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled his statewide aerospace strategy in the spring. It’s a blueprint predicated on workforce training, diversifying the aerospace cluster, and enhancing the industry’s support chain.
Inslee also appointed Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson to chair an intergovernmental, inter-agency task force to streamline the 777X permitting process.
In addition to transportation, the mainspring for landing the 777X is higher ed and addressing the skills gap in engineering and technology.
Higher ed managed a 12.4 percent backfill increase in the state’s operating budget, and WSU/Everett secured $10 million for the design and planning of a University Center expansion.
Everyone dreads a Boeing epilogue titled, “While Olympia Slept.” That’s why a summit — not a photo-op — is necessary to midwife concerns and address them head-on. Gov. Inslee should request a meeting with Boeing CEO Jim McNerney in concert with the state’s legislative leadership. Put it all on the table. What features of the state’s failed transportation plan are critical to ensure the 777X be assembled in Everett? Broker a deal. Pay a price, but not any price. No sleeping.