Boeing starts to narrow sites for 777X plant

Charlotte ObserverDecember 20, 2013 

Boeing officials gave no indication during a morning press conference and tour, of whether or not South Carolina would land the new Boeing 777x assembly plant. This is the 737 Dreamliner final assembly plant.

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com Buy Photo

— Charlotte is out of the running for a new Boeing facility that promised to bring as many as 8,000 jobs, a person with knowledge of the situation told the Observer.

At least three cities in North Carolina – Charlotte, Greensboro and Kinston – had sought to be candidates for the company’s proposed 777X jetliner plant. None of the state’s sites made Boeing’s final list of choices, the person said.

State Department of Commerce officials emailed Greensboro leaders a short note Friday saying none of North Carolina’s locations made the cut, The News & Record reported.

The decision brings to an end a brief but heated competition for the massive industrial project. Chicago-based Boeing sent out a request for proposals to more than a dozen cities and states, asking what economic incentives the governments would be willing to offer to lure the plant.

Boeing took bids until earlier this month, and ended up receiving interest from 54 locations in 22 states. The company had been expected to whittle the list down to a set of finalists this week. Company spokesman Doug Alder said Friday the company had started notifying locations of their status but wasn’t disclosing those sites.

“We’re appreciative of everyone who has taken part, and our teams continue to evaluate the sites that remain under consideration,” Alder told the Observer. “A final decision is expected early next year.”

Some Charlotte economic development officials had wondered what chances the city would have, considering what other states were offering. Charlotte Regional Partnership CEO Ronnie Bryant told a group of real estate professionals last week that he thought Charlotte was a “long shot” to land the plant because the city and state would be loath to match the incentives offered elsewhere.

Among Boeing’s desires: free or cheap land, tax incentives and a skilled workforce. The state of Missouri, for example, signed legislation pledging as much as $1.7 billion to the company. Washington state approved a $9 billion incentive package.

Charlotte pitched a plan that entailed hundreds of acres of city-owned land by Charlotte Douglas International Airport. City officials didn’t publicly outline details of their proposal.

‘Not always a match’

Word began to leak out about the company’s decisions on Friday.

An Observer reporter asked Gov. Pat McCrory about the status of the Boeing project Friday as the governor wrapped up a public announcement of Electrolux’s decision to add more than 800 jobs in Charlotte.

Asked if he’d heard anything from Boeing, the governor replied: “Right now I don’t know if we’re in play on Boeing.”

Asked to elaborate, he declined to do so. He said he preferred to keep the focus on Electrolux, which is spending $85 million to build a six-story building to house its new workers.

“We work with companies that best fit North Carolina and that best fit their needs,” McCrory said. “There’s not always a match ... even with the big fish and sometimes with the small fish. When there isn’t, we say thanks and move on.”

South Carolina commerce department officials could not be reached for comment on whether any locations there were under consideration.

The state already has a Boeing 787 Dreamliner plant in North Charleston, the company’s first passenger jet assembly facility outside the state of Washington. The plant employs 6,600 workers, and has garnered $670 million in economic incentives so far.

A company official appearing at the plant this week declined to comment to The State newspaper on South Carolina’s chances for the company’s new project. But the company has recently leased 468 more acres by its existing plant and hasn’t yet disclosed plans for the land.

“I’ll let you guys speculate what it all means,” Jack Jones, Boeing’s vice president and general manager for South Carolina, told The State.

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