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caption: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner performs his demonstration flight at Paris Air Show, in Le Bourget, east of Paris, France, Monday, June 17, 2019. The world's aviation elite are gathering at the Paris Air Show with safety concerns on many minds after two crashes of the popular Boeing 737 Max.
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Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner performs his demonstration flight at Paris Air Show, in Le Bourget, east of Paris, France, Monday, June 17, 2019. The world's aviation elite are gathering at the Paris Air Show with safety concerns on many minds after two crashes of the popular Boeing 737 Max.
Credit: AP Photo/Michel Euler

Boeing to move 787 Dreamliner production out of Everett

Boeing will move production of the 787 Dreamliner out of its Everett facility and consolidate operations at its South Carolina location.

Boeing leadership sent an email to employees Thursday morning, announcing the move which they expect to start mid-2021.

"The Boeing 787 is the tremendous success it is today thanks to our great teammates in Everett," said Stan Deal, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes in a statement.

"They helped give birth to an airplane that changed how airlines and passengers want to fly. As our customers manage through the unprecedented global pandemic, to ensure the long-term success of the 787 program, we are consolidating 787 production in South Carolina," said Stan Deal, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

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The announcement comes after rumors that Boeing was considering such a move, first reported by The Wall Street Journal. That prompted many of Washington's elected officials to weigh in with their disappointment that Boeing was even considering a move.

"...Boeing would be turning its back on the finest workers and the best place in the world to build airplanes," Governor Jay Inslee said in a statement. "Washington state has supported the company with a well-trained workforce, a robust supply line, unparalleled infrastructure, world-class research institutions and the best business climate in America."

Inslee says that the move out of Everett "would force a review" of the partnership between Washington state and Boeing, "including a hard look at the company’s favorable tax treatment."

Inslee notes that Washington continues to have more than 70,000 aerospace jobs and the decision about the Everett facility jeopardizes about 1,000.

"We have asked the Boeing Company multiple times what it needs to keep 787 production in Washington," Inslee said. "We’ve heard nothing back. Nor have we heard anything about how to restart this work when conditions improve. This move would signal an allegiance to short-term profits and Wall Street - not quality, safety and a vision for the future of the industry."

Inslee signals that Boeing could be punished for moving production out of Everett

Inslee signals that Boeing could be punished for moving production out of Everett

Boeing employs more than 30,000 people at the Everett facility. Thousands more are employed at local businesses and among Boeing's supply chain.

"Our team in Puget Sound will continue to focus on efficiently building our 737, 747, 767 and 777 airplane families, and both sites will drive Boeing initiatives to further enhance safety, quality, and operational excellence," Deal said.

"We recognize that production decisions can impact our teammates, industry and our community partners," he said. "We extensively evaluated every aspect of the program and engaged with our stakeholders on how we can best partner moving forward. These efforts will further refine 787 production and enhance the airplane's value proposition."

Local economy and workers

Local aerospace supply businesses say they aren't sure how they'd be affected if Boeing moves all 787 Dreamliner production to South Carolina -- it depends on the details. The industry is already feeling the strain from the pandemic's economic impacts.

Chris Mefford is the interim CEO of the Economic Alliance Snohomish County. He says so many workers have already been laid off -- or will be -- because of the pandemic. He adds that job losses from shifting 787 production could have a smaller impact now than it would have had before the pandemic struck.

"Covid-related impacts have reduced the demand for air travel and therefore the demand for airplanes significantly, so that consolidation that could happen could have varying degrees of impact depending on how it plays out with the Covid-related impacts," Mefford said.

Suppliers say whether the move affects them will also depend on whether Boeing maintains its relationships with them or finds new suppliers in South Carolina.

The largest of the 787 model is built in South Carolina. The fuselage sections made there are too big to be transported to the Everett plant.

Stan Sorscher is a former Boeing engineer who then worked for the engineers union before retiring.

Before Thursday's announcement, he said the company has long cultivated a fear among employees by playing different locations off of each other and using that as leverage in union negotiations.

“They don’t have to take your job today,” Sorscher said. “They threaten you all the time. That’s the message of this – we took the crown jewel, the airplane of the future, out of your hands and you will have legacy programs. Nothing more threatening than that.”

Sorscher has long criticized Boeing for focusing too much on its stock price and not enough on employees and thinking big about new airplane programs.

He says the move to consolidate the 787 in South Carolina indicates a cost-cutting mentality.

Local officials react

Rep. Rick Larsen also commented about the current lack of demand for airplanes, but said that Boeing's move would be short sighted. He argues that demand will return when the pandemic subsides.

"The questions I have posed to Boeing is 'Can you bridge that gap for three or three-and-a-half years?' Because when the travel returns, the demand for airplanes returns. And will they then need to go back to two lines anyway?"

Potential Boeing move is 'short sighted', Rep. Larsen says

Potential Boeing move is 'short sighted', Rep. Larsen says

Before the announcment, Congress member Pramila Jayapal said that moving production to South Carolina would risk safety, quality and overall success for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. She notes recently-reported safety lapses at the South Carolina plant.

Rep. Jayapal comments on potential Boeing move out of Everett

Rep. Jayapal comments on potential Boeing move out of Everett