Case Strengthening for 777X in Charleston, Stories Suggest

By Steve Wilhelm, October 28, 2013, Puget Sound Business Journal

A spate of news stories and interviews Monday suggested that South Carolina is gathering momentum as the state where Boeing will assemble its upcoming 777X.

Wall Street Journal aerospace writer Jon Ostrower wrote a story partly based on interviews with two unnamed “industry officials,” which suggests that Boeing’s factory complex in North Charleston, S.C. is looking like a better site to build the new plane — even though it’s an update of the Everett-built 777.

“South Carolina looks more and more promising,” one of the officials said, in Ostrower’s story.

South Carolinians already had been expressing their excitement about a story we ran last week relating an analyst’s opinion that by 2020 — when the 777X is to be rolling off the assembly line — South Carolina might make the most sense as the place to assemble it.

Finally, Scott Hamilton, a Puget Sound-area aerospace consultant, posted an interview on Monday with J.C. Hall, the new chairman of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance, in which Hall said the balance between Everett and North Charleston is “50-50.”

Among other things, Hall said Boeing’s decision would be based on a number of factors, including unions’ history of strikes in the Puget Sound area versus the far greater experience of Puget Sound-area workers.

“I would say we’re in a battle for the hearts and mind of Boeing management,” Hall said. “For Boeing, it will come down to overall an economic decision, but not necessarily a short-term economic decision.”

He added: “They (Boeing) believe they can reduce 777X assembly to a standard work process that they can put anywhere.”

Boeing is playing this close to the vest, and on Monday Alex Pietsch, Gov. Jay Inslee’s aerospace adviser, conceded that nobody on the governor’s team even knows whether Boeing has decided if the wing and aircraft need to be built in the same place.

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