Work together to keep aerospace tradition

Boeing and the IAM have a bigger problem than picking a site for the 777X. Their relationship has become strained and they are in need of a good “marriage counselor.” Both sides have a number of valid complaints, but rather than focusing on their differences, it’s time to work together for the sake of 84,400 jobs and $21 billion that the 777X program is expected to support in Washington state.

The Pacific Northwest has a long and proud tradition in aerospace. From its humble beginning in 1916 with William Boeing’s inaugural flight, to the space-age contributions that allowed Curiosity to land on Mars, aerospace has become the multi-billion driver of Washington’s economy. No industry has a greater impact on our citizens. Whether you are a dentist, a teacher, or the local grocer, aerospace workers contribute to your livelihood and their success is vital to yours.

In order to keep the aerospace industry strong in our region for generations to come, union members have been put in the unenviable position of casting the final vote. It is a decision that they will not take lightly and you can bet the rest of the world is watching — eagerly awaiting an opportunity to swoop in and take the aerospace jobs we have coveted for so long.

Without some concessions, Washington’s aerospace future could begin to fly south — negatively impacting 1,350 Washington aerospace companies and their 132,500 employees.

It is important for us to realize that global, national and regional business practices are evolving. Competition for aerospace jobs is fierce and the aerospace industry in Washington state is under attack from every region in the U.S. and the world. Although we immediately think of South Carolina, there are strong traditions of aircraft manufacturing in Texas, California, Kansas and overseas.

Boeing is a global supplier that will place work wherever it makes the most economic sense. If we want that work, the unions, the legislature, businesses and the citizens of Washington must work together as a community to let Boeing know that their contributions to our state are paramount.

Boeing is the state’s largest employer with nearly 81,000 workers. The combined labor of Boeing and 1,350 other Washington aerospace companies contributes to the production of over 1,200 aircraft a year, including 500 jets and 700 unmanned aircraft systems. These companies produce a wide range of components, parts and products for an increasingly global market.

A thriving aerospace industry ensures that the Puget Sound region maintains healthy employment, a strong standard of living and a quality of life that is second to none.

An experienced and well-trained workforce of machinists, computer scientists and engineers has been the secret ingredient to the Pacific Northwest’s recipe for aerospace success. However, with nearly 50 percent of its workforce eligible to retire within the next seven years, Boeing and others are looking for skilled workers wherever they can find them — and there is no shortage of competition for aerospace jobs that pay on average $50,000 per year, nearly 60 percent higher than the average for all private sector industries. Competitors from Europe, Russia, Canada, Brazil and China are vying for these jobs as are domestic rivals from Texas, South Carolina, and Alabama.

The Legislature’s actions on Saturday to extend tax breaks to Boeing and fund workforce training and education were important first steps to retaining the 777X. The ability to efficiently move people and products is essential to the success of our aerospace cluster. As these investments are made, aerospace in Washington will thrive well into the next century.

JC Hall is the Chairman of Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance, a regional aerospace organization that has been promoting the growth and success of the aerospace industry in the Northwest for over 11 years.

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