Economy hinges on Boeing, Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon says

  • By Noah Haglund and Krista J. Kapralos Herald Writers
  • Wednesday, January 28, 2009 6:28am
  • Local NewsLocal news

EVERETT — Snohomish County’s best hope for weathering the economic crisis is to make sure the Boeing Co. keeps production of the 787 Dreamliner jet in south Everett, County Executive Aaron Reardon said on Tuesday.

Reardon said he plans to release details soon on how the region’s leaders could persuade the aerospace giant to stay in the area. His comments came in a State of the County speech to Rotarians over lunch at the Naval Station Everett.

“We are all aware today that our Puget Sound economy, which is stronger than almost any regional economy in the nation, has slowed significantly,” he said. “The effects of the housing bubble have had a devastating impact in virtually every corner of this nation and in every market in this world. And we most definitely are not immune.”

As part of a separate effort, Reardon wants to propose technical changes to the county code that could lower costs for developers and revive the housing market.

He offered his ideas for economic recovery against the backdrop of a $21 million county budget shortfall — about 10 percent of the county’s $210 million 2008 general fund budget.

Since October, when the magnitude of the funding gap became apparent, the county has shed more than 100 workers from its full-time staff of 2,700. All department heads have slashed their budgets by 9 percent and the County Council has asked them to return by Friday with an additional 1 percent in possible cuts.

Reardon has already started assembling a task force to keep production of the 787 Dreamliner in Snohomish County. He plans to announce the members of the team soon.

“The approach that is going to be taken is not going to be county specific,” Reardon said. “It’s going to be regional.”

Matt Smith, vice president of the Snohomish County Economic Development Council, said county leaders should work to attract vocational and trade programs if they want Boeing to keep building the 787 at its south Everett plant. Boeing leaders have hinted that they could build the second line in an area with low labor costs and a deeper support network of vocational schools.

Production on the Dreamliner’s first line is two years behind schedule and Boeing does not expect to deliver the first of the new airplanes until early 2010.

Reardon also plans to propose several changes to county codes that would help developers left dangling in the worst housing market the region has seen in years.

One change would offer an extension on unused building permits, said Brian Parry, Reardon’s chief of staff. Permits currently expire after five years. A one-time, one-year extension is currently available. Under the change, developers could secure a second one-time extension. It’s not clear how much time that extension will offer.

The extra time would allow developers to wait until the housing market begins to recover before they build homes, without having to go through the permitting process a second time.

Another proposal Reardon wants to pitch to the council would lower the cost of maintenance bonds developers must hold on new developments.

“These are small items we think we can move quickly on in the midst of much larger economic issues,” Parry said.

Reporter Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465 or nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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