At an event in 2003, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, then-Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel and Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher share a laugh. (Chris Goodenow / Herald file)

At an event in 2003, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, then-Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel and Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher share a laugh. (Chris Goodenow / Herald file)

Local relationships with Boeing: many ups and downs

The Boeing Co. is turning 100 on July 15. Throughout the year, The Daily Herald is covering the people, airplanes and moments that define The Boeing Century. More about this series

In the 50 years since Boeing first came to Everett, there have been enough ups and downs to challenge any long-term relationship.

Boeing has long been the largest employer in Snohomish County. Recent arrivals can be forgiven for thinking the current tiff over tax breaks to be a low point in the relationship between the company and local governments.

Many local officials courted and welcomed Boeing and the 15,000 employees the company was expected to bring to Everett to build the new 747. But when the plan was announced in 1966, it was greeted with caution in some quarters.

“Like all these relationships, they begin so positively,” said former Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel.

There were fears that the county wasn’t ready for a manufacturer of Boeing’s size, and in pure planning terms, that was prescient.

Taxpayers rejected a levy that would have paid for road upgrades to support the increased traffic. The initial growing pains forced the city and county to hire more workers to keep pace with the growth in population, traffic, crime and even building permits.

At the same time, the city and county started seeing increased tax revenues, and home foreclosures dropped as a growing supply of well-paying jobs took root in Snohomish County.

The big challenge emerged as Boeing began an extended period of growth in the 1980s and 1990s.

The new 767 and twin-engine 777 required Boeing to expand its factory by about 56 acres over the course of a dozen years.

“Boeing was expanding their plant to build the 777, but they had exceeded the site population that had been granted them a long time previously,” said City Councilman Paul Roberts, who was Everett’s planning director from 1988 to 2004.

The previous limit had been 18,000 employees, but the arrival of the 777 was expected to double that, Roberts said.

The company ultimately was told to pay $50 million into a fund to support increased infrastructure development.

“The county and the city got pretty excited about mitigation funds and paying their own way, so to speak,” Drewel said.

But some local entities, including Snohomish County, appealed the decision because they felt that $50 million wasn’t enough, Roberts said. The upper echelons in Boeing’s corporate office weren’t too happy with it, either, for the opposite reason.

“But people in operations knew exactly what was happening,” Roberts said. “They knew people couldn’t build planes if they were sitting in cars.”

Also in the early 1990s, the state of Utah successfully convinced Boeing competitor McDonnell Douglas to build a factory there.

Boeing was planning what would become the 787 Dreamliner, and Washington state leaders grew apprehensive that the company might seek out a state friendlier to its business interests.

City and county staff set up a series of regular meetings with Boeing officials, Drewel said. They began to plan together, not just for the 787, but for other projects, as well.

Part of that involved planning the entire area around the main Boeing plant in advance to better accommodate future growth.

“If we could provide predictability, that would be the right step,” Roberts said.

The result has been more transparency and cooperation. And while the tax breaks extended to Boeing starting in 2003 have helped cement that relationship, the local economy has also benefited with the opening of a Dreamliner assembly line and a new wing assembly building for the 777X. Other work has similarly boosted hundreds of Boeing’s subcontractors in the area.

“The last 15 to 20 years, it seems it’s been going pretty well,” said Michael Lombardi, Boeing’s corporate historian.

Compared with Everett, where the company’s name adorns billboards and city officials regularly express thanks for its presence, Boeing’s relationship with other communities sometimes isn’t as positive, he said.

In Renton, for example, Boeing doesn’t register much in the larger community, despite the manufacturing plant in the center of town, Lombardi said.

In the future, maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship will take work on both sides.

“Like any relationship, it’s about clear and direct communication,” Roberts said. “I think the city is committed to that, and I think Boeing is, as well.”

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
1 dead, 1 in hospital after 3-vehicle crash on Highway 9

A concrete pumping truck and two sedans crashed Monday afternoon, closing the highway near Bickford Avenue.

Moses Malachi Brewer appears in court for sentencing Friday, March 24, 2023, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Man sentenced to 18 years for 2019 shooting in Everett

Moses Brewer, 23, shot four people in an Everett apartment, which left one victim paralyzed on his right side.

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
Health care spending continues to outpace inflation, driven by prices

Can state efforts curb 6.7% growth per year in overall health care spending?

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
A buffet of budgets, a bunch of whales and a request for your miles

It’s Day 78. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

Richard Rotter listens to witness testimony in his trial at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington on Monday, March 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
As prosecution rests, jury hears jail call after Everett cop killing

“Try to put a wild cat inside a cage? … See what happens,” said Richard Rotter, accused of killing officer Dan Rocha.

James Lewis
The month in public health: COVID hospitalizations near pandemic low

Meanwhile, the bad news: Opioid overdoses continue to increase in Snohomish County.

The new Arlington Everett Clinic on Monday, March 27, 2023 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Everett Clinic branches opening in north Snohomish County

A new specialty and surgical clinic opened Monday in Arlington, with another clinic coming soon in Marysville.

FILE - In this photo taken Oct. 2, 2018, semi-automatic rifles fill a wall at a gun shop in Lynnwood, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee is joining state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to propose limits to magazine capacity and a ban on the sale of assault weapons. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
WA Senate panel OKs assault weapon ban, a day after Nashville shooting

Democrats overrode Republican objections, pushing the prohibition on many semiautomatic weapons a step closer to becoming law.

A standard jet fuel, left, burns with extensive smoke output while a sustainable avation fuel, right, produces less smoke during a demonstration of the difference in fuel emissions on Tuesday, March 28, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Paine Field unveils plan for new, more eco-friendly jet fuel center

The research and development center is a joint effort by Snohomish County and Washington State University.

Most Read