Inslee’s sales pitch to Boeing: Choose Washington for new jet

Four years ago, tax breaks worth an estimated $8.7 billion helped land the 777X in Everett.

OLYMPIA — A coalition of political, business and labor leaders is revving up to convince Boeing to build its next new passenger jet in Washington.

Representatives of aerospace workers and companies, and executives of Snohomish and King counties joined Gov. Jay Inslee this week when he announced formation of a statewide panel to craft the best sales pitch to the jet maker leadership should they decide to launch a new model.

“We believe we’re going to have a very positive and compelling case to make that Washington is the best place for Boeing to build its New Market Airplane,” said Brian Bonlender, director of the state Department of Commerce, on Friday.

Boeing is eyeing a so-called mid-market aircraft, informally dubbed the 797. It 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.

Boeing officials aren’t expected to commit to this new plane before summer and only after that start thinking about where to assemble it.

In September, Inslee said in a speech in Lynnwood that his staff had had “discussions with industry leaders” about the new plane, which Boeing officials first discussed openly at the Paris Air Show in June.

“We know our state provides the best value for building that airplane,” Inslee told a room full of aerospace executives and civic leaders. “I think it’s reasonable for Washington state residents to expect that Boeing would build its next aircraft here.”

On Friday, Bonlender said the council will produce a “competitiveness study” detailing, among other things, how the state’s supply of skilled workers and available locations provide Boeing with the least risky path to profitability for a new airline. The Choose Washington council also will be looking to identify programs, policies, and initiatives to bolster the existing aerospace workforce and supply chain.

Four years ago, a similar undertaking led by Inslee helped convince Boeing to build the 777X in Everett.

At that time, lawmakers met in special session and overwhelmingly approved an extension of tax breaks to the aerospace industry. The extension will save Boeing an estimated $8.7 billion in payments to the state through 2040.

This time around the tax break isn’t expected to be a topic of conversation.

“My understanding is the existing language in the law covers a new plane,” Bonlender said. “So no change would be needed.”

Inslee’s creation of the council comes a week after officials from Snohomish County and Everett, along with labor and business leaders, launched their own push to land the new jet in Everett. The local task force will hold its first meeting in January.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, an architect of the local task force, will be serving on the governor’s council as well.

Other initial Choose Washington members include Dow Constantine, King County executive; Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County executive; Larry Brown, political director, International Association of Machinists 751; Kelly Maloney, president, Aerospace Futures Alliance; Robin Toth, vice president, Greater Spokane, Inc.; and Chelsea Orvella, legislative director, Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA).

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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