Most communities throughout the Pacific Northwest are rushing to develop some type of connection to Everett-based aerospace giant Boeing, and who can blame them? Boeing business is booming!Over the next two decades, the state’s most powerful employer plans to sell 33,500 commercial airplanes for a cool $4 trillion (with a “t”). Development of the 787 Dreamliner was delayed for more than three years, but now Boeing is attracting buyers from around the world, particularly in Asia. In the next couple of years, the company will ramp up production to about one 737 and one 777 every three days or so.
Naturally, Southwest Washington wants in on the action. The Columbia River Economic Development Council has scheduled a Wednesday workshop to help suppliers enter the aerospace pipeline that’s bound for Boeing. “Come Fly With Us: How to Fit into the Aerospace Supply Chain,” is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at Pearson Air Museum. Cost is $20 per person and includes lunch and beverages. For more information: http://www.credc.org.
Kudos to the Vancouver-based CREDC for organizing the workshop. This is precisely the aggressive strategy that’s needed to help aerospace suppliers -- software companies, machine shops, plastics manufacturers, research-and-development firms and others -- jump on the Boeing bandwagon. As CREDC President Lisa Nisenfeld noted, “There are other areas of the state that are immersed in aerospace, but we have not been. We needed to get our name out there that we’re interested. We want to be a player, and we need to learn the ropes.” Part of that learning process will be offered by Janice Greene, senior manager of supplier diversity for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Greene will deliver the keynote address at the workshop.
Boeing has a small impact in this area, with a parts facility in Gresham, Ore. In Bingen, there’s the headquarters of Insitu Inc., a Boeing subsidiary with about 800 employees at several sites designing and producing military and surveillance drones. One of the Insitu offices is in east Vancouver.
Wednesday’s workshop is not CREDC’s first attempt to strengthen the connection to Boeing. Last month, CREDC sent a staff member to the Aerospace and Defense Suppliers Summit in Seattle. And efforts are under way to recruit Boeing workers from plants that are being closed in Wichita, Kan.
Beyond economic development, there’s another component to any community’s efforts to Boeing-ize itself: the education factor. The Herald in Everett reports: “Washington isn’t producing enough engineering degrees to keep up with demand, so universities are increasing engineering slots.” Among those efforts is the growth of the engineering program here at Washington State University Vancouver. Many of Boeing’s 82,000-plus employees in Washington state are nearing retirement age. These workers are mostly machinists and engineers.
It’s good to see the dual approach in Clark County to enlist in the Boeing boom, with CREDC pushing the economic-development side and WSUV finding ways to contribute to a highly skilled workforce.