Gregoire talks up Washington aerospace

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire says the state has a perfect climate for growing jets.

“We’ve built a home that encourages aerospace,” Gregoire said at an industry conference in Spokane Wednesday. ““I am working closely with the Legislature to make sure we are doing everything we can to attract and keep aerospace business.”

Gov. Gregoire shares a laugh with District 751 Tom Wroblewski and SPEEA President Cynthia Cole at an aerospace event earlier this year.

Gov. Gregoire shares a laugh with District 751 Tom Wroblewski and SPEEA President Cynthia Cole at an aerospace event earlier this year.

Gregoire listed some of the benefits enjoyed by Boeing and the 650 other aerospace companies in Washington:

  • Washington’s basic taxes — including property, sales and business and occupation taxes — are below or very near the comparable taxes in states like South Carolina or Texas that are trying to woo aerospace jobs.
  • The state has cut the B&O tax rate for all aerospace companies.
  • Companies can take advantage of new tax credits for new buildings, new machinery, and land used for manufacturing.

Also, she noted, Washington’s unemployment insurance system is solvent, unlike states like South Carolina, which is borrowing milions of dollars from the Federal government each week to balance its budgets and looking to increase business taxes in the midst of the recession.

Gregoire said she’d ask the Legislature to extend tax breaks to FAA-certified jet-repair stations statewide.

Another speaker at the conference, aerospace analyst Scott Hamilton called on state and industry leaders to focus less on preserving the aerospace status quo, and start doing more to grow the industry in Washington. “The time has come to dramatically expand thinking to adjust to realities, opportunities and new requirements of commercial and defense aviation and aerospace,” he said.

The state needs to increase research and development funding, education and job-training programs for aerospace, Hamilton said. Washington also should provide aid to companies in related fields, like those developing unmanned aerial vehicles, or those working on biofuels for aviation, he urged.

District 751 Legislative Director Larry Brown was also among the speakers at the conference, and he defended the Union from those who are trying to blame it for prompting Boeing to consider locations outside Washington.

Turning Washington into a low-wage right-to-work state is not the answer, Brown said. “Almost without exception, the best places to do busines are the places with the most Union density.”

The Union is committed to working with Boeing and the rest of the industry, and has done so for decades, he told the 200-some aerospace executives at the conference. “We’re going to continue to work hard every day to make Boeing successful, in every way we know how,” Brown said. “We’re here at the table and we’re staying here.

“Our opponents like to mock us because we call ourselves the ‘Fightin’ Machinists,’ but the truth is we fight for Boeing and for Washington aerospace far more often than we fight against it,” Brown concluded. “We see ourselves as your natural allies in the battle to grow Washington’s aerospace industry today and we look forward to working alongside you to build a long and prosperous future, for us all.”

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