"It breaks my heart," said Boeing employee Bobbie Skar. "It makes me so sad because we used to make the best airplane in the world. I was very, very proud to be a Boeing employee."
The announcement sent shockwaves across western Washington as the region deals with the loss of what likely would have meant thousands of additional jobs.
"Boeing has betrayed our loyalty once again," Machinist Union President Tom Wroblewski wrote in a statement, "walking away from our discussions just like they walked away from Seattle eight years ago in their move to Chicago."
Boeing said it evaluated criteria that were designed to find the final assembly location within the company that would best support the 787 business plan as the program increases production rates. Boeing already operates a factory in North Charleston that makes 787 parts and owns a 50-percent stake in another plant there that also makes sections of the plane.
"Establishing a second 787 assembly line in Charleston will expand our production capability to meet the market demand for the airplane," Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said during the announcement Wednesday. "This decision allows us to continue building on the synergies we have established in South Carolina with Boeing Charleston and Global Aeronautica."
Boeing says they plan to break ground on the new facility in a few weeks and have the plant finished in about two years with the first plane rolling off in 2012. Overall, the company says it hopes to produce 10 of the planes per month by 2013. It currently makes about 31 of its smaller 737s per month and seven of its popular 777s per month.
But until the second 787 assembly line is brought on line in North Charleston, Boeing says it will establish transitional surge capability at its Everett location to ensure the successful introduction of the 787-9, the first derivative model of the 787. When the second line in Charleston is up and operating, the surge capability in Everett will be phased out, Albaugh said.
Boeing also has long complained about the business climate in Washington and frequent strikes by production workers. At Boeing's plant in North Charleston, workers last month voted against continued representation by the International Association of Machinists.
To build the second line in Everett, the company had indicated it wanted a no-strike agreement with the International Association of Machinists union, which waged an eight-week strike last year that shut down the company's commercial airplane facilities. But talks between the Machinists union and the company had fallen apart this week, with Boeing turning down further negotiation.
However, the president of the Machinists Union disputed the idea that concerns over future strikes is what drove Boeing to South Carolina.
"Corporate decisions like this are years in the making, and this one is no different," said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. "Until the last minute, executives feign indecision in an effort to dodge responsibility and to squeeze the last drops of goodwill out of a community that is losing a part of its legacy and, more important, its employment base."
Wroblewski added: "There was never a 10-year no-strike agreement. The Boeing Company would never offer us a proposal. We talked; we told them we would talk about an extended agreement (but) they never, ever proposed anything back."
Gov. Gregoire said even earlier Wednesday, there were efforts to keep the second line in Everett. She had tried one last time to convince Albaugh to keep it in Washington.
"He continued to maintain there is nothing you or the state of Washington can do with regard to the second 787 line," Gregoire said of her phone conversation with Albaugh. "This is up to us and our negotiations and discussions with labor."
Sen. Patty Murray said she had the Machinists Union in her office with new concessions, trying to re-start the negotiations for a no-strike contract and guaranteed work around Puget Sound.
"Boeing didn't want to do that today," Murray said. "They had already made their decisions. So that was to me, personally, very disappointing."
Congressional aides said it was about more than the 787. The union asked for more job protection on other planes - the 737 and 777.
Boeing said it didn't want to commit to projects that are 5 years away from renewal, especially while South Carolina was sweetening the pot with hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives
But Albaugh said Boeing will still remain a major factor in the Puget Sound region.
"While we welcome the development of this expanded capability at Boeing Charleston, the Puget Sound region is the headquarters of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Everett will continue to design and produce airplanes, including the 787, and there is tremendous opportunity for our current and future products here," Albaugh emphasized. "We remain committed to Puget Sound."
Besides South Carolina, states initially seen as competitors to Washington included North Carolina, Kansas, Texas and California. But Boeing said last week it had narrowed the choices to Washington and South Carolina.
The news came shortly after South Carolina legislators approved an economic incentive package believed to be tailored to lure the Boeing assembly plant to the state. The incentive package would allow lawmakers to guarantee tax breaks and low-interest loans for an unidentified economic development prospect.
After Boeing announced its decision, the typically staid South Carolina Senate chamber broke out in cheers and legislators put on palmetto tree pins with wings, merging the state's symbol with its biggest economic development announcement on record.
Gov. Mark Sanford called it a "monumental" investment that will spur the state's already-growing aerospace hub.
But other local politicians were left dealing with monumental disappointment.
"I am deeply disappointed by this turn of events," said Everett mayor Ray Stephanson. "I had hoped for a different outcome. This decision will have an adverse impact on many loyal and dedicated workers, suppliers and sub contractors here in Puget Sound."
Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon said it's a wake-up call for our area to remain competitive.
"The Boeing Company's announcement to locate a second 787 line in North Charleston, S.C., signals that other states want what we have - a strong manufacturing base," Reardon said. "We must all work together and fight to keep it. Washington state must make a conscious decision to do whatever is reasonably necessary to aggressively compete to keep the jobs we have and grow our economy or risk more losses."
Unlike Boeing's other commercial jets, the 787 will be built mostly from lightweight carbon composite parts instead of aluminum. As a result, the 787 will be more efficient, quieter and have lower emissions than other airplanes, Boeing says. The mid-size plane will include wider seats and aisles, and larger windows.
Boeing has relied on suppliers to build huge sections of the plane that are later assembled in Everett. But that approach so far has proved problematic, with ill-fitting parts and other glitches hampering production.
Boeing has postponed the plane's inaugural test flight and deliveries five times, putting it more than two years behind schedule. The delays have cost Boeing credibility and billions of dollars in anticipated costs and penalties.
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