Sneak Peak: Boeing's new plant expected to launch Lowcountry

SEATTLE, WA (WCSC) - Historic Charleston is writing another chapter in the history books and this one is expected to make the local economy take off.

Boeing will soon open its Dreamliner final assembly plant in North Charleston. It is the first time an aerospace company has built a final assembly plant outside home territory.

During a recent visit to Seattle, Wa., the home to the aerospace industry for almost a century, Live 5's Debi Chard got a glimpse of what could be ahead for Charleston.

"It's a huge transition for your state" said John Cornish, Vice President of final assembly at Boeing's Seattle plant.

Get ready Charleston. Boeing is about to open the new Dreamliner assembly plant. The plant is expected to launch the Lowcountry in a whole new direction.

"The Charleston factory will be identical to what you see (in Seattle)" Cornish said.

At the Everett Washington plant, Cornish provided a first look at what Charleston will see in July,  when Boeing opens the company's second  787 Dreamliner Final Assembly Plant in North Charleston.

The Dreamliner is innovative and so is the assembly process, which has been a game changer for the aerospace industry and has helped Seattle grow into a high tech, progressive city.

Seattle is home of the first Starbucks and Microsoft is based there, but the Puget Sound area is not just for geeks. It is the birthplace of Jimmy Hendrix and alternative music.

Street musicians entertain at the historic farmer's market where businessmen and locals mingle with the tourists.

The Charleston community, which historically has seen little manufacturing, is becoming a home to the aerospace industry. Boeing is making it happen. To give you an idea what the company has accomplished for Seattle, Boeing's Everett plant is the biggest building in the world. Inside, there are rows of huge planes in various stages of assembly. The plant is so big, it's more than a jog to get from one place to another.

The two hangar doors are the size of a football field and you can fit 911 NBA basketball courts inside. By comparison, North Charleston's plant is much smaller, but it will pack a mighty economic punch.

Charlestonian Justin White lives in Seattle and works on Dreamliner hydraulic systems, but his employer is Triumph aerospace. Boeing attracts support companies, and draws a diverse group of people, like universities.

"There's a large majority of people that I work with at the University of Washington and at Boeing also," White said.

The "Boeing effect" tends to put more money in the community and that means the pockets of those living in the Charleston area.

"I do know one phenomenon that happens around here when Boeing ramps up their hiring, it's called brain drain," White said. "They tend to pull all the top people out of other companies into their fold."

That could give your employer a push to sweeten the pot to keep you.

When it opens, Lowcountry employees will be doing the work at the North Charleston plant where, if all goes according to plan, they will  eventually produce three 787 Dreamliners a month, helping the Holy City become more than a tourist destination.

"Charleston will become a center of excellence well into the 21st Century," Cornish said.

Tune in every Monday and Wednesday this month as Debi Chard takes you inside Boeing.

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