1 day later: When do Boeing jobs materialize?

Riley reacts to Boeing news.
Riley reacts to Boeing news.
Summey press conference.
Summey press conference.
Speaker Bobby Harrell
Speaker Bobby Harrell

By Live 5 News Staff email | twitter

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The day after Boeing chose North Charleston for its second 787 Dreamliner production facility, attention turned to pragmatic analysis of the announcement.

In a state where unemployment hovers over 11 percent, the news is being touted by business and political leaders as nothing other than "game changing." But, many are asking: when will the jobs come?

Presently, the North Charleston Boeing plant employs 900 workers.

Once the new 787 Dreamliner plant opens, that number will drastically rise. "The number of jobs is in the thousands," said VP of Boeing Charleston Tim Coyle.

Coyle estimates the facility will need nearly 1,000 for mechanics alone. While most of those jobs will be filled from the local applicant pool, they will need to bring in some employees from within, he said.

"The support people to help get us off the ground with the learning curve will come from other parts of the Boeing company," said Coyle. He says the airline manufacturer has a tentative deadline of manufacturing the first Dreamliners in 2011, and to do that they will have to pull from their nationwide knowledgebase to do so.

They hope to roll out the first of the 787s in early 2012.

"I would be guessing here, but six months prior to that we would begin the hiring and the training process," said Coyle.

Boeing aims at building ten planes per month; three would come out of the North Charleston facility and the remaining seven would be manufactured in Everett facility.

Having two different plants on opposites sides of the country gives Boeing insurance against any type of work stoppage.  "Strikes, earthquakes, hurricanes, whatever. It's manmade or natural work stoppages," said Coyle.

Officials added that hiring number in the thousands does not include the construction of the plant, which starts in November. Boeing spokeswoman Candy Eslinger did not have information on whether a construction company had secured that contract yet.

Boeing has already employed the guidance and expertise of USC economics professor Douglas Woodward. He will be interacting with the company, providing them with socio-economic impacts created by the new facility.

Within seven years, Boeing will have to create at least 3,800 full time jobs in the state and invest three-quarters of a billion dollars in the area. Early estimates suggest some 12,000 jobs will be created in offshoot industries.

The Boeing Company said Wednesday it had selected the North Charleston airport facility to serve as hub of the new line of airliner, a move that meant the company was making a cross-country shift from its commercial airplane center in Everett, WA.

The deal has the potential to open the doors to new industry in Charleston. In fact, some political leaders across the state have said the deal could be bigger than the opening of the upstate SC BMW plant in 1994.

The full Senate voted 44-0 on low-interest construction bonds and incentives that include a sales tax exemption on fuel used in test flights. To qualify, a company would have to create at least 3,800 full-time jobs and invest at least $750 million in the state over seven years.

The five-part legislation, which expanded existing law, includes sales tax incentives that would exempt fuel used in test flights and flights to transfer aircraft between plants. It would also exempt computer equipment purchases and allow a qualifying company to immediately pay no sales tax on construction materials, rather than wait for a 2011 phase-in.

It would also ensure the company could negotiate with state officials to pay little corporate income taxes for 10 years - to likely tie those taxes to in-state sales - by deleting the minimum pay requirement.

Speculation about the incentives package focused primarily on Boeing.

Union Strife Creates Pacific Northwest Hurdle

Boeing had already been on record as saying that labor strife with the International Association of Machinists (IAM) played prominently in its decision to seek a home outside Washington. In 2008, the IAM staged a strike that further exacerbated problems and shipping setbacks. That strike lasted nearly two months.

According to the Seattle Times, the two parties were still trying to iron out differences as late as last week and the Dreamliner facility - as well as the hopes political and business leaders in Charleston and SC - hung in the balance. An accord could not be reached, and the company turned to Charleston.

With a labor standstill in Washington, Charleston likely looked even more attractive. Workers in Boeing's plant in North Charleston distanced themselves from the union some six weeks prior.

Currently, Boeing Charleston performs fabrication, assembly and systems installation for the 787 aft fuselage sections. Across the street, Global Aeronautica, which is 50 percent owned by Boeing, is responsible for joining and integrating 787 fuselage sections from other structural partners.

Response Local and National

As the decision loomed and rumors of Boeing picking up and moving to the Lowcountry wound around the two metropoles, panic crept into Everett sparking fear the airliner company may start looking elsewhere for future manufacturing and expansion opportunities.

As news broke in Washington of the loss, Washington governor Chris Gregoire addressed the company's decision.

"I'm disappointed. I'm angry. I hurt for the workers. I think Boeing made the wrong decision," Gov. Chris Gregoire said at a news conference less than an hour after the announcement.

The decision was announced in Everett after a closed-door meeting and word quickly traveled to the Lowcountry where the mood was significantly more jubilant. House members on the Statehouse floor in Columbia cheered and applauded as the news broke.

Statehouse speaker Bobby Harrell called the announcement a declaration "to the global business community that SC is back in the game and open for business." He called the decision the biggest economic development in the state in over a decade.

Governor Mark Sanford said he thought the decision by Boeing would spur on the aerospace industry much in the same way BMW did with an upstate factory 15 years ago, calling the deal the "largest announcement in South Carolina history."

For the incentive package - and an unemployment support program also passed in the special session - to become a reality, the governor has to sign the bills when they arrive at his desk.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said the state looks forward to interacting with Boeing and the state of Washington in the years ahead. "Today's announcement is proof positive that South Carolina is a great place to do business," said Graham.

Related Stories:

Mayors Riley, Summey react to Boeing decision - Anthony Miller reports

Big businesses invest billions in Lowcountry - Nicole Johnson reports

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