Aerospace giant Boeing talks to local businesses

Local workshop tells how to be in company supply chain

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

Published:

 

Whom to contact

Contacts for those interested in supplying the aerospace industry:

• Bonnie Moore, director of business services for the Columbia River Economic Development Council, 360-567-1055.

• Larry Pederson, business development manager for Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership, 503-406-3776.

• John Vicklund, president of Impact Washington, 425-438-1146.

Boeing Co., the global aerospace giant and an anchor of Washington state’s economy, is willing to do business with everyone from well-established suppliers that employ hundreds of people to companies that started with two people out of a garage.

But you’d better be financially sound, committed to working with Boeing for the long haul, and prepared to follow the company’s rigorous standards -- or you might as well forget it.

Those were just some of the messages senior officials with Boeing and its veteran suppliers hammered home during a workshop in Vancouver Wednesday aimed at helping businesses in the Portland-Vancouver metro area diversify into the aerospace supply chain.

With the global aerospace industry on a major upswing, Boeing wants to expand its supply chain, a “critical piece” to the company’s “ability to build airplanes and get them out on time,” said Janice Greene, senior manager of supplier diversity for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, who delivered the workshop’s keynote address. An estimated 75 people attended the event inside the historic hangar of Pearson Air Museum.

The gathering was part of a larger initiative to increase the competitiveness of the Portland-Vancouver metro area in equipping the aerospace industry. That encompasses a plan by area economic development agencies -- including the Vancouver-based nonprofit Columbia River Economic Development Council -- to recruit suppliers of Boeing from Wichita, Kan., where the company will close its defense plant by the end of 2013.

It’s a good time to do business with Boeing.

The company has a $300 billion backlog of airplane orders, Greene said, and by 2013 it will be cranking out about 60 airplanes per month.

Greene said Boeing is looking to do business with everyone from machine shops and metal fabricators to electronic parts makers, and suppliers of wiring and tubing.

The company will check to see if a potential supplier is financially sound, she said. And a supplier must adhere to high-quality standards. “If we have quality issues,” Greene said, “that sets us back.”

And while Boeing’s headquarters is in Chicago and some of its major

operations are in the Puget Sound region, senior officials said Wednesday the company has a significant presence in the Portland area that people sometimes forget about.

Jon Haralson, a senior supply chain manager for Boeing, said the company’s Gresham, Ore.-based parts factory employs more than 1,700 people. Typically, Haralson said, most companies make it into Boeing’s supply chain by way of the machine parts and sheet metal industries.

“I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of suppliers,” he said, including people who’ve started a business out of their garage.

Learning about how to do business with Boeing is literally as easy as punching in “Doing Business with Boeing” on Google, or, if you’re a stickler for precision, typing in http://www.boeingsuppliers.com/index.html.

That’s the simple part. The hard part includes moving through the certification and competitive bidding processes -- among other challenges -- to land work with the aerospace giant, according to a panel of veteran suppliers of Boeing who spoke Wednesday.

Tom Jons, president and CEO of Camas-based PLEXSYS Interface Products Inc., which provides modeling and simulation systems for aircraft and airspace control, said working with global aerospace companies has its advantages and disadvantages.

One major advantage is that the giants pay you on time for your work, Jons said. They also visit you to understand what you do.

“We can show them our stuff,” Jons said of his company, which has grown from 70 to 95 full-time employees in less than two years. “They have the resources to come visit us.”

Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ;http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com.