State of Washington
Gov. Chris Gregoire recently met with the Capitol press corps in her office. As we reporters walked in, Boeing lobbyists were just leaving. So naturally much of the question-and-answer session centered on Boeing’s impending decision on where to build its second 787 line — in Everett or in Charleston, SC. (This was before the news that workers at Boeing’s South Carolina plant had voted to de-unionize.)
Gregoire said she had recently met with Boeing’s new Commercial Airplane CEO Jim Albaugh and asked him: “Is there anything more I can do with regard to the second 787 decision?” Gregoire says the answer back was: “No. That it’s really left to them now to have their discussion with labor.”
That comment apparently floored the folks at Boeing. While it’s true that labor-management issues will be the biggest factor in Boeing’s decision, the company has an ongoing and well-known laundry list of concerns about Washington’s business climate. Those issues — like bringing down the cost of workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance — were highlighted in an aerospace competitiveness report earlier this year by Deloitte Consulting.
But rather than tackle those political land mines and risk angering the unions, Gregoire named Bill McSherry as her aerospace adviser and formed an Aerospace Council whose focus is mainly on non-controversial issues such as workforce training and research and development. To be fair, the Legislature this year did pass unemployment insurance reforms that could save Washington businesses more than $300M by 2015.
So why isn’t Gregoire doing more to try to keep the next 787 line, and to compete against South Carolina? Some have suggested she doesn’t want to expend a ton of political capital only to see Boeing pick up and leave anyway. That would be an embarrassment.
Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla, who sits on the Governor’s Aerospace Council, notes there’s more at stake than just the next 787 line. “This year it’s South Carolina looking to take our 787 jobs. Next year it may be another state going after our 737 jobs,” said Hewitt in a recent statement. “We have to draw a line in the sand and let companies know that no issue is too hard for us to tackle to make this a job-friendly state.”
Gregoire says she has requested another meeting with Albaugh to make the “business case” for Boeing staying in Washington. “Because I think there is an absolute business case to be made and I’ll put us up against South Carolina any day,” says Gregoire.
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