Final steel beam placed at massive Boeing plant

Gov. Mark Sanford
Gov. Mark Sanford

By Nicole Johnson  bio | email | Twitter

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Ten months after breaking ground on its $750 million aircraft assembly plant, Boeing reached a milestone in construction Friday.

Boeing officials held a topping off ceremony at the North Charleston plant Friday to mark the last steel beam being put in place for the frame of the plant where the company's new 787 jetliner will be built. About 1,000 people were on hand for the ceremony.

Workers put the final two pieces of steel in place on the structure located at South Aviation Avenue, raising the beams more than 120 feet.

"I am impressed with what workers, 1,000 plus, have been able to do here over the last 10 months," said Gov. Mark Sanford, who attended Friday's event. "It is an incredible monument to a whole lot of hard work."

The project which began construction last November and is expected to be in operation next summer.

"To get this much work accomplished in this period of time, it really is a unique accomplishment. It takes a lot of commitment," said executive vice president of Turner Construction Ken Leach.

The joint construction companies BE&K and Turner said they have been proactive about safety and said there have been no lost-time incidents.

"That means no one on this project has gotten hurt so significantly that there were not able to come to work tomorrow, which is really what we strive for," Leach said.

The plant is expected to add 150 jobs in the area and it has already added 1,200 construction jobs.

An economic analysis released in May by the Alliance for South Carolina's Future, said that Boeing will add $6.1 billion to South Carolina's annual economy.

Over the first 30 years of operation, the length of time for the state's infrastructure bond issue, the study estimates that Boeing will generate almost $2.76 billion in state tax revenues, far outpacing the cost of incentives.

The analysis was prepared by Dr. Harry Miley, a Columbia-based economist who was chief economic adviser for Gov. Carroll Campbell.

Boeing officials said the plant will include space to build the 787 dreamliner, offices and places to eat.

"It's huge. We made a lot of commitments to the state, to our customers, and the fact we are on schedule per plan, and doing it in a safe manner is huge. It shows how great the workforce of this state is," said Marco Cavazzoni, Boeing vice president and general manager of final assembly and delivery.

Boeing hopes to begin building its first dreamliner in North Charleston by July and export it by early 2012.

"We look forward to have a large number to be delivered from here and when customers come from all over the world and discover South Carolina, they are going to fall in love with it," Cavazzoni said.

Officials said construction is right on schedule. When completed, the plant will be one of three places in the world where twin aisle jets will be manufactured in full and exported.

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