Washington fits Boeing RFP to a ‘T,’ says IAM 751 chief

SEATTLE – Washington state remains the Boeing Co.’s best chance for success with its upcoming 777X aircraft program, the leader of the company’s hourly workers said.

777xPic“Our state has the best tax structure and business climate among the competing states, and all the facilities and infrastructure that Boeing needs,” said Tom Wroblewski, the president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751. “Most of all, Washington is home to the largest and deepest pool of aerospace workers in the world, workers who time and again have proven their value to Boeing.”

Wroblewski spoke in reaction to Boeing Co. statements on Monday that it has not ruled out Washington as the potential home for the 777X, which is the latest derivative version of Boeing’s best-selling wide-body jet.

Media reports have detailed all the items that Boeing wants states to provide in order to be considered as the new site. The list includes zero-cost, or “very low cost,” land and facilities next to a 9,000-foot runway; infrastructure improvements including highways, utilities and rail lines; worker training programs; low taxes and a streamlined regulatory system; and a highly skilled labor force.

A seaport is on the wish list as well.

Washington already has all of those things, Wroblewski said.

LAND AND FACILITIES – Boeing already owns ample land adjacent to Paine Field in Everett, and also could have access to land owned by Snohomish County on the other side of the airfield, which easily meets Boeing’s 9,000-foot requirement.

Boeing’s Everett site includes a rail spur that is connected to a pier that allows Boeing to barge in parts that Japanese suppliers make for the current generation of 777 planes.

Boeing says it will need to spend up to $10 billion to build as much as 4.2 million square feet of manufacturing space, should it move the 777X to another state. In Washington, however, the company says it would need to build only 1.4 million additional square feet, which would save the company billions.

INFRASTRUCTURE – All the infrastructure Boeing needs for the 777X already is in place, Wroblewksi asserted – including established delivery systems for the suppliers that will provide key components for the 777X.

In addition, Washington’s Legislature is expected in January to take up a $12.3 billion transportation bill that would include projects to help Boeing move parts and people between its plants in Auburn, Frederickson, Renton and Everett.

yakima21EDUCATION AND WORKER TRAINING – A report for the Washington Aerospace Partnership this year found that Washington state has five times more people training for aerospace jobs than competing states.

Washington has a wide range of publicly funded training programs for aerospace workers, including community colleges, apprenticeships and the various branches of the Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center. This list includes the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, which in 2012 was honored by the U.S. Department of Labor as a trailblazer in workforce training.

TAXES AND BUSINESS CLIMATE – The conservative Tax Foundation’s annual survey of state business tax burdens ranked Washington the sixth-best state for business taxes in 2013. In addition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked Washington No. 6 for its overall favorable business climate.

All this was before the state Legislature approved a Boeing 777X incentive package that included an $8.7 billion tax break for Washington aerospace companies and a series of moves designed to streamline permitting for aerospace industry projects.

— Washington is home to the largest, most-productive aerospace labor force in North America, with the aerospace machinists of District 751 at the heart of it.

At a time when Boeing’s other final assembly site has failed to meet delivery targets, the company’s union workforce in Puget Sound is delivering record numbers of 737s and 777s, which is driving Boeing’s profitability.

“Everyone knows that we’ve had our disagreements with the Boeing Co.,” Wroblewski said. “However, everyone needs to remember that our members have helped Boeing achieve record production levels, record profit margins and record stock prices in the past year.

“Boeing this week was able to increase its stock dividend, and announce a $10 billion stock buyback, primarily because our members are producing record numbers of 737s and 777s here in Puget Sound, and doing it more efficiently than anyone else ever has,” he continued.

“A business analyst would call us the low-risk, high-productivity solution to Boeing’s manufacturing needs,” Wroblewski said. “I just call us the best aerospace workers in the world.”

Wroblewski said when all objective data is weighed, he’s confident that Boeing’s evaluation will show that Washington is the best state to be the home for the 777X.

“Our members would dearly love to continue our 20-year legacy of 777 success by building the 777X here,” he said. “At the same time, Boeing’s customers and shareholders need to know that the company can deliver on the promises it has made. Given those two facts, I believe that Boeing will end up reaching the same conclusion that I have, that the 777X program must take flight here in Puget Sound.”

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents nearly 33,000 working men and women at 49 employers across Washington, Oregon and California.

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