Analyst: Boeing could leave Washington by 2020

Analyst: Boeing could leave Washington by 2020 »Play Video
The fifth Boeing 787 airplane designated for flight test was assembled Thursday at the 787 Final Assembly facility in Everett.
EVERETT, Wash. - The demand for new airplanes is down, and that's hitting Boeing right where it hurts. The company says its profit for the first three months of this year was cut in half.

But top Boeing officials insist that the commercial plane division's major programs can remain steady despite the steep global economic downturn.

Many of the production cuts will not take effect until next year, but they've already begun affecting the company's profits.

The demand has taken a nosedive on Boeing's assembly lines. Airlines have requested delays averaging one to two years on new 777s, 767s and 747's, which could total 120 aircraft.

The turbulent economy could also force a much bigger, detrimental change to Western Washington. There is renewed speculation by aviation analysts that Boeing could be lured to southern states that are more business-friendly, like Texas and the Carolinas.

"I think it's possible that Boeing could be out of Washington as a producer by 2020," said aviation analyst Scott Hamilton.

Boeing's recent battles with its unions in Seattle are also a factor. Hamilton believes Boeing might soon announce plans for a second 787 production plant, and it could land somewhere else.

"If Boeing were to locate a second 787 line in another state, it makes all the sense in the world to me for the first line to be consolidated with the second line," Hamilton said.

But the company says it has no plans for a second production plant.

"We've made no decisions surrounding a potential second line for the 787. Our primary focus right now is getting the 787 into flight test and getting the existing production system running smoothly," Boeing said in a statement.

Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, whose county depends on the presence of the Boeing plant, says Washington lawmakers must act quickly and offer a wide range of services, from expanded business breaks to better education in the region.

"The state is not a competitive place to do business. The state has fallen behind in the last six years since we had the initial bid on the 787 in 2003," he said.

But very little has been done this legislative session.

"I think it should make everyone nervous," Reardon said. "There are 120,000 people in Snohomish County alone that depend on the Boeing company or their suppliers for livelihood. That's a lot of jobs."