Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers listens while Bruno Arnal, general manager of the Arlington Amazon fulfillment center and Jason Clark, vice president and general manager of Boeing 777 and 77X programs, speak at the Snohomish County Update Panel Discussion on Tuesday, May 28, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers listens while Bruno Arnal, general manager of the Arlington Amazon fulfillment center and Jason Clark, vice president and general manager of Boeing 777 and 77X programs, speak at the Snohomish County Update Panel Discussion on Tuesday, May 28, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

‘Here for the long term’: Boeing, Amazon push for Snohomish County partnerships

A panel, sponsored by Economic Alliance Snohomish County, asked: How can we pull together to make this a more enviable place to live?

MUKILTEO — Snohomish County offers an abundance of activities that make life outside of work meaningful — from recreation to volunteer opportunities.

But keeping the region desirable — through improvements to local highways, increased affordable housing and more — requires business and government to join hands.

Creating these partnerships was the key takeaway Tuesday from the hour-long “Snohomish County Update” panel discussion. More than 200 people attended the event sponsored by Economic Alliance Snohomish County at the Boeing Future of Flight in Mukilteo.

County Executive Dave Somers was joined by representatives of two local powerhouses, Boeing and Amazon: Bruno Arnal, general manager of Amazon’s new Arlington fulfillment center, and Jason Clark, vice president and general manager of the Boeing 777 and 777X airplane program.

Both Boeing and Amazon plan to expand their local footprint.

Jason Clark, vice president and general manager of Boeing 777 and 77X programs, speaks during the Snohomish County Update Panel Discussion on Tuesday, May 28, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jason Clark, vice president and general manager of Boeing 777 and 77X programs, speaks during the Snohomish County Update Panel Discussion on Tuesday, May 28, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Last week, Amazon announced it would open a new Everett facility to streamline production of its broadband satellite network. The hub is expected to open next month and employ 200 people, the company said.

Boeing is in the process of installing a fourth 737 airplane assembly line at the company’s Everett assembly plant, Clark said. The 737 is currently built only in Renton. Federal regulators will give the final approval on whether the planemaker can increase production of the 737.

“This is a good place to live,” Clark said. “I raised my kids here.”

Clark told the panel he routinely hears from Boeing employees who praise the activities the county offers “outside of work.”

While schools and mountains help businesses attract new employees to the area from around the country, the housing crunch does not.

When employees face a 45-minute commute because they can’t find affordable housing nearby, communities and businesses suffer, Clark said, arguing partnerships with local government and nonprofits are needed to find solutions.

“We know these things take time. But we (Boeing) are here for the long term,” Clark said.

The discussion also touched on the need for sustainability in both the aviation and retail sectors.

“Amazon has a goal to be net zero by 2040,” Arnal said. “We recycle everything we can at the facility.”

The effort, he said, includes “maximizing the fill rate of our trucks,” including using larger trucks and filling them to the brim.

Boeing is constantly modifying its factories, including the Everett plant, to reduce power consumption, Clark said. Older light bulbs are now replaced by LED lights that use 75% less energy. As for the airplanes themselves, they’re now equipped with new engines that are 15% more fuel-efficient than earlier generations. Reducing the noise the big jets make when they take off or land is another priority, Clark added.

Bruno Arnal, general manager with Pathways at Amazon, speaks during the Snohomish County Update Panel Discussion on Tuesday, May 28, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Bruno Arnal, general manager with Pathways at Amazon, speaks during the Snohomish County Update Panel Discussion on Tuesday, May 28, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Somers touted the county’s new Sustainable Aviation Fuel Research and Development Center, a joint venture between Snohomish County and Washington State University. The center, the recipient of $6.5 million in startup funds from the state Department of Transportation, is expected to open this year in a temporary location at Paine Field.

The facility will collect sustainable aviation fuel samples from around the world and test them for safety and performance, contributing to the aviation industry’s goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to promote these technologies,” Somers said of local efforts by Eviation Aircraft and ZeroAvia to develop all-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft.

To inspire the new generation, both Clark and Arnal said their companies are reaching out to local schools and colleges to connect with students who want to pursue STEM careers or sharpen their hands-on skills.

“There’s a large number of kids out there that want to build things — they don’t want a desk job,” Clark said.

Boeing recently donated a section of a 767 fuselage to the Washington Aerospace Training & Research Center, an Edmonds College training facility located at Paine Field, Clark pointed out.

Amazon’s Arlington warehouse is a showcase for automation and robotics, Arnal said.

“Automation takes over the boring, mundane tasks, so people can spend more time on innovating and programming the robots,” he said.

The Seattle-based retail giant regularly brings in managers from all over the country to train at the Arlington warehouse, the largest fulfillment center in the state.

Now, the company plans to give the community a chance to view the technology in action, Arnal said.

Next month, he said, Amazon plans to begin offering public tours of the Arlington center.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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