Washington Officials, Employees Respond To Report Boeing Will Move 787 Production To SC

Boeing 787 Dreamliners go through preparations for customer approval at the company's facility in North Charleston, S.C., in 2017. A Wall Street Journal report says the company plans to consolidate Dreamliner assembly in South Carolina.
Boeing 787 Dreamliners go through preparations for customer approval at the company's facility in North Charleston, S.C., in 2017. A Wall Street Journal report says the company plans to consolidate Dreamliner assembly in South Carolina. CREDIT: Mic Smith/AP

READ ON

BY SIMONE ALICEA / KNKX & AUSTIN JENKINS / N3

Boeing is expected to announce this week that it will consolidate 787 Dreamliner assembly in South Carolina, according to the Wall Street Journal. The move would be a major blow to the company’s Everett workforce.

The report, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, says it’s not yet clear how many Puget Sound-area jobs could be affected or how long consolidation could take. Boeing employs about 30,000 people in Everett, which shares 787 production with the company’s plant in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Boeing officials have not confirmed the details of the story. The company first announced in July it was considering consolidation, as the coronavirus pandemic put a dent in demand and production for airplanes.

The move could have big consequences for the local economy. 

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers represents tens of thousands of Boeing employees in Washington. Local president Jon Holden told KNKX earlier this month the union fought to bring the 787 to Everett in 2003 and then again to keep production here in 2009.

“These jobs help our members remain in the middle class, but they also support other jobs in the community” Holden said at the time. 

Boeing’s workers in South Carolina are not unionized.

Local officials reacted strongly to the news late Tuesday and early Wednesday. U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, called the move “shortsighted and misplaced.”

“The Pacific Northwest is home to the best aviation and aerospace workforce in the world,” Larsen said in a statement. “As the economy comes back and air travel returns, I will fight to bring 787 production back to Everett.”

Larsen chairs the aviation subcommittee on the House’s transportation and infrastructure committee.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said he was “deeply disappointed” by the news. He and other local officials embarked on a campaign this summer to keep 787 production in Everett called “Better With Boeing.”

“COVID-19 has pushed our economy into unwelcome and uncharted territory, and this is another blow,” Somers said in a statement.

The executive says the county will advocate for Boeing to restart 787 assembly in Everett as sales return.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin says she’s bracing for a lot of difficult conversations with her community.

“Boeing’s part of the fabric of our community,” Franklin said. “There’s not a family, a resident that doesn’t somehow have a connection back to the Boeing Company.”

That’s true in her family. Franklin’s father-in-law worked for Boeing his whole career.

“This loss would impact so many families,” she said. “It would be deeply felt throughout the community — not just for those that lose their jobs but also all of the ripple effect that would bring, in loss of income throughout the city, in other areas.”

Despite the possibility of Boeing moving the 787 out of Washington state, and thousands of jobs with it, Franklin is still bullish about aerospace in Everett.

“This will continue to be an aerospace hub today and long into the future,” Franklin said. “We have the facility, the workforce, the community, the support, and we will continue to work to grow Boeing, the supply chain companies and all the other great organizations here in Everett.”

And she wants to talk to Boeing about that once the company makes a decision, “whether it is what I would hope to hear or what I won’t hope to hear.”

In a statement Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee said the move to South Carolina would amount to “Boeing turning its back on the finest workers and best place in the world to build airplanes.”

Inslee noted that the state has supported Boeing and aerospace through workforce training programs, infrastructure investments and a healthy business climate. If Boeing takes all 787 production to South Carolina, the governor says that will force a review of the state’s partnership with Boeing, including a hard look at the tax treatment the company gets.

The governor also says the state asked Boeing several times what it needed to keep 787 production in Washington, but didn’t hear back. Boeing has not confirmed the report in the Wall Street Journal. But the company has been signaling such a move is strongly under consideration.

Simone Alicea reports for KNKX in Seattle/Tacoma. Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins covers state government for the public media Northwest News Network.

Related Stories: