A next step for aerospace

Thursday in Everett, Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled his statewide aerospace strategy. It was a cogent blueprint predicated on workforce training, diversifying the aerospace cluster, and enhancing the industry’s support chain. There was some broad-brush rhetoric, consistent with political speech and the frame of a long-term vision. The turgid aerospace jargon was reserved for the plan itself, for the wonks and bird nerds who savor public policy.

“This strategy was built with input of stakeholders from across the state, and outlines how we can do even more to create jobs in this vital sector of Washington’s economy,” Inslee said. “Our strategy is broad and comprehensive, and it’s necessary regardless of the next Boeing program.”

There were a couple sins of omission: one, a pardonable oversight, the other a platform to debate workers’ comp and other labor and industry questions.

Regarding the pardonable oversight: The governor’s rally was hosted by Snohomish County, at the Future of Flight Museum (owned by the county) at Paine Field (which is managed by the county.) Close by sits the under-construction operations center for Boeing’s Dreamlifter, the steroidal 747 which serves as a large-cargo freighter. The new, 30,000-square-foot facility was underwritten by Snohomish County and will be leased to Boeing. Read: Aerospace and Boeing, in particular, have managed quite well thanks to the leadership of the Snohomish County Council.

Gov. Inslee spotlighted the efforts of Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson and former County Executive Bob Drewel, who have demonstrated their commitment to a thriving aerospace sector. Inslee also announced that he is appointing Stephanson to chair an intergovernmental, inter-agency task force to streamline the 777X permitting process. That’s great news. But, alas, county government was omitted in the thanks yous.

Mention Snohomish County, and let loose images of the scandal-plagued county executive, Aaron Reardon. Reardon didn’t attend Thursday’s event, perhaps because he was holed up somewhere pondering his yet-to-materialize resignation letter. Make no mistake: There are inspired county employees and members of the county council who care deeply about the workers and aerospace future of Western Washington. A hat tip to them.

The second omission was to sidestep any mention of a workers comp system that the private sector believes merits radical reform. Here Inslee can start a substantive conversation. Do Northwesterners want to preserve the dignity and rights of a highly skilled workforce? Is there a middle ground? Should there be?

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