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Washington courts Boeing for new 7E7 assembly plant

Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2003

OLYMPIA, Wash. Gov. Gary Locke and a gaggle of Washington's political, business and labor elite on Wednesday rallied at the Capitol to kick off the region's bid for the new Boeing 7E7 assembly plant and the thousands of jobs that go with it.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels called the movers-and-shakers a ''dream team'' sure to convince Boeing that usual political infighting has given way to regional cooperation that improves the business climate for Boeing and other companies.

Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel said the new assembly plant, which he hopes to land for Everett, could generate 20,000 direct and spinoff jobs. Officials have not said how many Washington jobs could be lost if Boeing builds the plant elsewhere.

King County Executive Ron Sims called the nationwide competition for the new Boeing jetliner the business and political equivalent of the Super Bowl. Boeing's decision to open the competition to all 50 states was a jolt, but will force needed improvements, he said.

''We are seeing a sea change'' in attitudes toward business, Sims said. ''They have forced it upon us, and it is welcome. We want to be the best place in the country to do business.''

Washington hasn't had to scramble like this for a do-or-die business investment before, but it gives the state a chance to mature as a player, said Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg.

''Were committed, determined and unified,'' Locke said. ''We expect to win,'' he said. ''Wash-ington is the smart choice. Wash-ington is the best choice.''

Charles Bofferding, head of the aerospace engineers' union, said the criteria released by Boeing last Friday seem to be ''biased toward us. It is a reasonable, logical choice.''

State Trade Director Martha Choe said Washington indeed measures up well, but will act as though the state were a brand new commodity to market.

''We have some inherent advantages, but we can't take anything for granted,'' she said in an interview.

''Run scared. That's my philosophy.''

Choe said a private consultant will help the state prepare a compelling report for Boeing. She couldn't say how much the process is costing the state, and said the document won't be made public, for competitive and proprietary reasons, until Boeing announces its final decision.

Although Boeing began its operations in Seattle decades ago and has built nearly every generation of airplane here, the company has invited all states to submit proposals by June 20.

The company expects to pick a site late this year.

Boeing didn't attend the event, as executives did on Monday, when the governor signed the new transportation package that the company had termed its No. 1 priority of the session.

Locke's pep rally was moved to the Legislature's largest hearing room because all the participants couldn't fit into his usual conference room across the street. Business, labor and legislative leaders attended, as did the mayors of Seattle, Everett and Tacoma and the county executives of King, Snohomish and Pierce.

Locke called the high-powered assembly ''Just a fraction of Boeing supporters in the state of Washington.''

''We stand united and determined,'' he said. ''In essence, we're ready to build.''

Speakers said the state's submission to Boeing will be an impressive litany of Washington's attributes, including educated and experienced engineers and machinists, good weather, cooperative local governments, excellent infrastructure, and a newly inked $4.2 billion transportation-improvement plan.

The boosters will return home to beat the drums for the Boeing project, and will feed information and sales-pitch ideas to the state, the governor said. A steering committee is being formed quickly, he said.

House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, and Sen. Luke Esser, R-Bellevue, said lawmakers hope to pass legislation backed by Boeing to overhaul the state-run unemployment and workers' compensation systems.

Locke also said the Legislature is expected to pass a $16 million appropriation to help construct a major new dock on Puget Sound that Boeing could use.

''Certainly the cup may be over half full, but we need to keep pouring,'' Esser said. Lawmakers and key players need to show ''real passion'' so the Boeing opportunity doesn't slip away, he said.

Everett, where Boeing already owns the world's largest commercial manufacturing building, is the perfect site, said Mayor Frank Anderson. ''There's a reason for that 'E' in 7E7.''

On the Net:

Boeing: http://www.boeing.com

Governor: http://www.governor.wa.gov



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