EVERETT — The Boeing Co. may be months away from deciding whether to launch a new jet model, but locals aren’t waiting around to make a pitch for billions of dollars in jobs and investment.
Officials from Snohomish County, Everett and elsewhere in the region are starting an all-out push to convince the aerospace giant to build the new jet in Everett. Boeing executives are unlikely to commit to the so-called mid-market aircraft, informally dubbed the 797, until next summer. Only then would they start thinking about where to assemble it.
“We can’t afford to wait,” County Executive Dave Somers said in a news release Thursday. “We, as the leaders of Snohomish County, will use this time to make sure all is in place to make the decision where to build the (new jet) as easy as possible for Boeing.”
The future aircraft would fit somewhere between the largest 737 and the smallest 787. With 200 to 270 seats, it would fill a niche left by the discontinuation of the Renton-built 757.
“A lot of people call it a 757 replacement,” said Doug Alder, a Boeing spokesman. “You can think of it that way, but what we’ve heard from airlines is that they want something a little bigger than the current 757 and that flies a little farther than the current 757.”
The jet maker already has set aside office space in Renton to explore the possibilities. It also reassigned top executive talent toward the hypothetical program. The company has been in touch with more than 50 airline customers, getting input on what the plane might look like.
“We still haven’t made a decision whether we’re moving forward with that airplane,” Alder said. “We believe the market’s there, it’s just about closing the business case on our end, and we’re just not there yet.”
That could happen in six to eight months. Among the questions to be answered are whether the new jet would have a single aisle or two, and what kind of range it would need.
There’s no word on whether Boeing plans a public spectacle, as internet behemoth Amazon did earlier this year to scout locations for a second headquarters, when it comes time for selecting a location.
The local task force will hold its first meeting in January to keep Boeing’s focus on Everett. Those invited include a panoply of people from local governments, higher education, training programs and organized labor.
“Economic development and supporting our aerospace industry will be some of my top priorities as Everett’s new mayor,” Mayor-elect Cassie Franklin said.
Many in the region are still smarting over Boeing’s decisions to move its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago and to start a second 787 assembly line in North Charleston, South Carolina. Huge tax concessions in 2013 helped secure 777X production in Everett, but the company has shed about 16,000 jobs statewide since then.
Snohomish County already can boast of the country’s biggest aerospace cluster, with about 41,000 people working for 200 firms. That accounts for almost half of Washington’s aerospace workforce. The supply chain supports not only Boeing but foreign jet makers Airbus, Bombardier, Comac, Embraer, Mitsubishi and Sukhoi.