King County Council joins effort to land 737 aircraft assembly site

November 29, 2011

By Warren Kagarise


Dow Constantine

In a push to promote King County as the top place to assemble next-generation Boeing 737 jets, County Council members agreed Oct. 24 to fund studies to support local and statewide efforts to land the program.

In a complementary effort to ensure the planes get built in Washington, Gov. Chris Gregoire announced a $9.8 million plan Nov. 16 to retain the project.

The global aerospace company is researching possible locations to assemble the next-generation 737 — a re-engineered aircraft called the 737 MAX. The existing 737 model is assembled in Renton.

In order to land the manufacturing facility for the aircraft, dubbed the 737 MAX, Gregoire proposed spending $7.6 million to expand engineering programs at the University of Washington and Washington State University; $1.5 million to create a Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation at the UW and WSU; $450,000 to support aerospace curriculum at 12 high schools; and $250,000 to bolster science, technology, engineering and math programs at 10 high schools.

“There is no question that Washington state is the best place in the world to build the Boeing 737-MAX jetliner,” Gregoire said in a statement.

The governor also asked the Legislature to extend a tax incentive for aerospace from 2024 to 2034.

“The 737 MAX is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our state — and we have to go after it with all we’ve got,” Gregoire said. “It’s likely the largest manufacturing contract in the world for at least a decade.”

County Council members agreed to spend $130,000 on a King County study and to provide funds for a study conducted for the statewide retention effort, Project Pegasus. State officials expect to present a study next month identifying Washington’s ability to meet likely requirements as a 737 MAX assembly site.

“Funding the maintenance and potential expansion of the aerospace industry means funding the future of King County,” Councilwoman Julia Patterson, prime sponsor of the ordinance, said in a statement. “I see these funds as an investment with the potential to yield a return hundreds of times its size in the form of new jobs and tax revenue for public service.”

The legislation steers $100,000 to a competitiveness study to assess the state of the aerospace industry in King County. Leaders called for a study to examine how the region could strengthen the aerospace industry and explore options for local aerospace businesses to expand by supplying parts to airplane manufacturers around the globe.

The other $30,000 funds King County’s share in a $600,000 statewide study conducted as part of Project Pegasus.

King County Executive Dow Constantine praised council members for the decision.

“This targeted funding will promote regional economic recovery and is proof that this government stands ready to support the creation of local, family-wage jobs,” he said in a statement. “I am thankful that the council has acted so quickly to demonstrate that our region, which has the factories, workforce and transportation infrastructure, is determined to compete in the aerospace industry on a global scale.”

In mid-October, Constantine brought together business, education and government leaders to discuss such a study and a possible group to promote King County as the site for 737 MAX assembly.

The resulting King County Aerospace Alliance is meant to complement the statewide Project Pegasus effort. Constantine announced the alliance Oct. 19.

“Boeing put Seattle on the map as an innovative region and it remains a central part of our economy. Today, Boeing has a lot of choices in a global marketplace,” Issaquah-area Councilman Reagan Dunn said in a statement. “The Pegasus Project is the type of government advocacy needed to compete in the 21st century.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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