States scramble for new Boeing 777X jetliner plant

Governors of more than a dozen states are rushing to offer incentives such as subsidized training and infrastructure to persuade Boeing Co. to move production of its new 777X jetliner out of Washington, where union members rejected a labor contract that froze pensions.

While analysts say North Charleston is a potential site for the plant, a key S.C. lawmaker said he was unaware if the state had sent an incentives proposal to Boeing for the 777X work as of Wednesday. The deadline for proposals is Tuesday.

“They know South Carolina has tremendous interest in it,” Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said Wednesday.

A S.C. Commerce Department spokeswoman said the department does not comment on prospective business or recruitment efforts. Efforts to reach Gov. Nikki Haley’s office about a potential incentives package were unsuccessful.

South Carolina has given Boeing $570 million in economic incentives since it located a jet manufacturing plant in North Charleston, where it assembles 787s. That includes $120 million awarded this year for an expansion that could add another 2,000 jobs to the company’s 6,000 employees in the Lowcountry.

Charlotte officials also said Wednesday they are working to enter the multi-state competition for the manufacturing plant.

City officials there have received a request from Chicago-based Boeing to submit a proposal for the facility, Jerry Orr, the city’s former aviation director, told the (Charlotte) Observer. City officials are working with the Charlotte Chamber on the proposal, he said.

“Everyone wants this,” said Orr, the executive director of the Charlotte Airport Commission, which is in a legal battle over whether it or the city should control Charlotte’s airport. “This is the big prize.”

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley also are pulling together big incentives packages to lure thousands of jobs away from Everett, Wash.

Nixon, a Democrat, called a special session of the general assembly this week with the goal of pushing through $150 million in economic-development sweeteners targeted at Boeing. Bentley met with Boeing representatives in Birmingham last month about the prospect of producing its 777X passenger jet in Huntsville and expanding the company’s presence there


“I am not saying we are going to get it, but let me tell you, they do like Alabama,” Bentley, a 70-year-old Republican, said in a speech after the meeting.

States are lavishing attention on Chicago-based Boeing in hopes of securing the thousands of highly skilled jobs that would accompany production of the company’s first jet designed for the 2020s.

Union machinists in Washington voted 67 percent against an eight-year contract extension that would have cut benefits while keeping 777X work in Everett, home to the company’s production line for the 777, the earlier version of the twin-engine model. Production of the 777X is to begin in 2017, according to the company’s website.

Andrew Shain, Bloomberg News and the Charlotte Observer contributed.