There was a rerun of the 1998 romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail” on TV the other night. In it, the Tom Hanks character talks about his mega bookstore and its impact on the small bookstore around the corner owned by the Meg Ryan character.
“It’s not personal, it’s business,” he says. Like in “The Godfather,” and “going to the mattresses.”
That all comes to mind when I look at some of the issues in the region these days including Boeing, the Export-Import Bank, the general economy and how the state Legislature might react to more money in the pot.
The state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council reported recently that revenue collections for mid-July to mid-August were more than 5 percent higher than expected, up $62.4 million. So, the Legislature may have a bit more money to play with in January when it convenes to write a budget for the next biennium.
Legislators, however will still face a daunting task of trying to match revenue and expenses with a multi-billion dollar legal case hanging over their heads. In the McCleary case, the Supreme Court ruled that the state is failing to meet its constitutional duty to fully fund education in Washington, and must do so by 2018.
David Schumacher, director of the state Office of Financial Management, said in July that the revenue growth “will not keep pace with the cost of maintaining current services and covering mandatory increases, let alone provide the additional $1 billion to $2 billion needed to meet the state’s constitutional basic education obligations.” The next revenue forecast is scheduled for release Sept. 16.
So, what is the state of the economy, and business, around here as we look ahead to the rest of the year?
Boeing and the Puget Sound region seem like they are in crisis these days: Jobs going elsewhere. “Centers of Excellence” being created. Suggestions that the company is trying to destroy the Seattle Professional Engineers Association. The 787-10 to be built in South Carolina. Huge subsidies granted by the Legislature.
OK, let’s all take a deep breath and relax. I am not a Boeing apologist though, for full disclosure, I will note that I have family members who work, or worked, for Boeing.
But like in the movie, what is happening at Boeing these days in regard to the Puget Sound region is just business.
Boeing is obviously a global company with many functions; some people have compared it to the U.S. State Department. After all, it has operations around the world for various political and economic reasons — aircraft parts from Chengdu in China, engineers in Russia, and so forth. It made the business decision to diversify its manufacturing by opening a plant in South Carolina, though the headlines show that program still has some growing pains.
So, it is no surprise that Boeing also is tapping the aerospace engineer market in Southern California. You go where the talent is. There were few complaints in California when Google opened an office in Seattle to take advantage of the talent from software and gaming industries here. It made sense. So does Boeing’s decision to shift jobs to California and elsewhere.
Boeing jobs will come and go. The focus should be on what’s here and it’s significance. Our region remains a major manufacturing base for the company. Boeing will build the 777X here, including the high-technology wing because of the skill and experience of the work force. Boeing is here to stay and the jobs will keep coming — just not in all areas or all divisions.
Of course, there are issues remaining. Workers have accused the company of age discrimination in the recent reduction in engineering jobs.
And CEO Jim McNerney also made the situation worse recently with a mindlessly self-centered remark when he was talking to analysts about quarterly results and whether he might be near retiring. McNerney said he won't retire because "the heart will still be beating, the employees will still be cowering," according to Bloomberg. Workers rightly reacted strongly to that comment.
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