Keeping Boeing and its jobs in Washington must be priority

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While it might be too late to stop the move to South Carolina, Boeing still has the bulk of its work force in this state.

Boeing's decision Wednesday to choose South Carolina over Washington state as the place to locate its second 787 production line is a bad move.

Unfortunately, Boeing's largest labor union and the state of Washington have not been looking out for their own economic best interests.

Let's look at reality here.

It would seem to make more sense for Boeing to locate the second 787 production line next to its current production line in Everett. It already has skilled laborers, suppliers and the infrastructure to make top-quality airplanes efficiently. Establishing those things in South Carolina will cost Boeing millions while sacrificing quality and efficiency.

But the labor union refused to concede that this is a changing world and it can no longer be as demanding about pay and benefits. Folks in South Carolina and elsewhere are willing to do the work for far, far less. In addition, the union cannot continue to threaten a strike that would stop production of airplanes. Boeing can't be competitive if it can't deliver its product on time.

And Washington has to acknowledge that its economy is linked to Boeing. Not only does Boeing provide thousands of well paying jobs -- about 75,000 --in this state, but it accounts for thousands of other jobs through the suppliers and services it uses.

Economist Dick Conway, who has studied Boeing's impact on the regional economy for decades, told The Seattle Times that each Boeing job generates spending that supports 1.7 other local jobs.

South Carolina sees the importance of getting this plant and the jobs it will bring to the state. The South Carolina Legislature on Tuesday paved the way for approval of an incentive package for Boeing. The proposed legislation, calls for $170 million in grants for startup costs. It also has multiple tax breaks that would be worth tens of millions of dollars more, according to the Times.

South Carolina lawmakers expects Boeing to invest $750 million and create 3,800 new jobs within seven years.

Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, was concerned Washington would lose this assembly plant even before South Carolina lawmakers took action.

"We could have looked at more tax incentives. We could have fixed workers' comp for them. I think those are clearly good messages to send to someone like Boeing when we're in this kind of situation," Hewitt said.

The plane is already on the runway and ready to take off for South Carolina. It appears too late to change Boeing's decision.

However, the Legislature, Gov. Chris Gregoire, other state officials and labor union officials must stay focused on keeping Boeing's jobs in Washington state and adding jobs in the future.

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