Washington state tries to steer Boeing away from South Carolina

Washington's residents are smarter, its aerospace taxes are lower, its unemployment fund more stable, its aircraft industry infrastructure is more extensive, its work force more experienced and its quality of life superior.

So why would Boeing consider opening a second 787 Dreamliner assembly line in South Carolina or any other state?

That's the question Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire asks in a new report aimed at persuading Boeing to open that second Dreamliner assembly line here.

Gregoire presented that report recently to Jim Albaugh, the new head of the company's Commercial Airplanes Group. She released it to the public Monday.

"Washington provides Boeing with the best location for the second line. Washington is the highest quality location Boeing could possibly identify for additional 787 production," said Gregoire in an introduction to the report.

While the report enumerates Washington's supposed advantages, it mentions no new incentives to turn Boeing's head. Boeing said it appreciated the compilation of the state's advantages, but the company believes unemployment and workers compensation taxes are too high.

Washington state Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, concurred that more needs to be done.

"While this report is beautiful and glossy and filled with rankings, is there really any substance here that Boeing hasn't already considered? I want the company to stay in Washington as much as everyone else, but it’s time to stop resting on rankings and look at where we really are on the ground," he said in a news release.

Hewitt said the Legislature needs to consider workers compensation reform to cut taxes that are due to rise this year.

Boeing received huge tax breaks when it searched for the site for the first 787 assembly line six years ago. Washington produced a $3 billion package of tax cuts and infrastructure and education enhancements to lure the assembly line to Everett. The tax cuts are still in place.

But Boeing has already dropped strong hints that the second assembly line could be located somewhere other than Everett.

The company has applied for building permits in Charleston, S.C., where it recently purchased a plant from Vought Aerospace Industries that builds major sections of the 787 fuselage. The company says those building permit applications aren't indicative of the company making up its mind. It just wants to be ready to build a new plant if the decision favors South Carolina.

And Boeing executives have said that unless they get some assurance of labor peace here, they may just open that other assembly line in another state. Boeing suffered a two-month Machinists Union strike that shut down production of all of its commercial airplane lines here.

The report notes that the subject of labor peace is the subject of negotiations between Boeing and its unions. Those unions have been talking with Boeing about how to ensure better relations.

But beyond labor issues, Gregoire's report enumerates several reasons why Washington outshines its rival states, though it leaves the question of labor costs and labor peace as a brief item in the report.