EVERETT — An independent study released this week says Washington is the best place to design and build commercial aircraft in the United States.
It’s the second major study this year to give the state’s aerospace sector a thumbs-up as the Boeing Co. nears a decision on launching a new airplane program — and where to locate final assembly.
The PricewaterhouseCoopers study ranks Washington ahead of Texas, Georgia, Arizona and Colorado. South Carolina, home to Boeing’s only non-Washington commercial airplane assembly line, was ranked 17th.
The fifth annual “manufacturing attractiveness analysis” assigned each state an overall score based on cost, labor, infrastructure, industry, economy and tax policy.
In 2016, the same study ranked Washington 10th. Last year, the state didn’t crack the top 10. But changes this year in how the study analyzes industry, labor, infrastructure and tax policy helped catapult Washington to number one.
The Choose Washington New Middle-Market Airplane Council trumpeted the new study’s findings. The council, an alliance of elected officials and business and union leaders, hopes convince Chicago-based Boeing that the best place to build its next passenger airplane model is Washington.
Boeing’s so-called middle-market airplane, informally dubbed the 797, would fit somewhere between the largest 737 and the smallest 787, filling a niche left by the discontinuation of the Renton-built 757. The Boeing board of directors has not yet given the project a green light, but state leaders have wasted no time in preparing to make a case for building it in Washington.
“This is great news for all of Washington,” said Noel Schulz, co-chair of the NMA Council and a Washington State University professor. “We are in a strong position, and to stay there we must continue to make investments in education, workforce training and in infrastructure.”
In June, the NMA Council touted an report on aerospace competitiveness by the Teal Group of Fairfax, Virginia, paid for by the council. The consulting company’s vice president, Richard Aboulafia, was the report’s primary author. He is one of the world’s top aerospace industry experts.
Both studies are quantitative in scope, meaning their findings are based on numerical public and government data. Neither study tackles murkier, qualitative factors such as labor issues or political climate.
Like the PricewaterhouseCoopers annual report, the Teal Group ranked Washington first in the nation for aerospace development.
Schulz’ NMA Council co-chair, Rick Bender, former president of the Washington State Labor Council, said the latest report validates the contribution of Washington’s aerospace workforce.
“Aerospace companies want to be in Washington because we have the most highly skilled and productive workforce in the industry,” Bender said. “The workforce here is a major advantage to aerospace companies.”
The PricewaterhouseCoopers report noted that Washington is home to more than 1,400 aerospace companies, including Boeing. Last year, Boeing generated $10.3 billion in operating profit, “an industry milestone,” the report said.
PricewaterhouseCoopers also produces an annual review of the aerospace and defense industry.
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods