Boeing opens Gresham metals processing facility

Upgrade cost $100 million; 23 percent of workforce from Clark County

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

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Boeing celebrated an official opening Friday of a $100 million expansion at its parts facility in Gresham, Ore. that employes some 1,800 workers, of whom 23 percent are Clark County residents.

An open house and showcase event including elected officials, business groups, and construction contractors who worked on the 64,000-square-foot chemical processing plant and a 34,000-square-foot addition to an existing building. The plant housed equipment and chemical baths used to treat machined parts to be used in Boeing 7-series airplanes, including the Dreamliner, that are assembled in Everett and Renton, as well as at the company's South Carolina plant. Workers at the Gresham facility make parts from aluminum, steel, titanium, magnesium and other specialized metals.

"This new facility and expansion project represents the state-of-the-art in metal parts finishing," Perry Moore, the Gresham plant's Portland general manager, said in a statement. "Not only is it a tangible representation of the confidence the Boeing company places in the Portland workforce, it also represents an environmentally progressive and efficient production model for other manufacturing facilities to follow."

The chemical processing facility meets the LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Gold standard, and the sepa

rate building expansion meets the LEED Silver standard, Boeing said. LEED strategies used on the new processing facility include skylights, a reflective roof, light-emitting diode parking lot lights, water-skimping landscaping, and recycled and salvaged building materials.

The Gresham facility, which now totals 1.3 million square feet, has added 350 workers since breaking ground two years ago. The Chicago-based aircraft company expects steady work for those employees as it tries to satisfy strong demand for new airplanes.

"This provides us a modern chemical processing facility that's going to support our site for large products for a very long time in the future," said Don Hendrickson, Boeing Portland chief financial officer. "You don't make this investment if you're going to keep work here for a couple of years."

The industry projects worldwide demand over the next 20 years for 35,000 new large commercial planes, for a total $4.5 trillion market, Hendrickson said. Boeing traditionally gets about half the market, and plans to deliver 585 planes this year, he said.

The company is building 35 Boeing 737s a month in Renton. It plans to increase that number to 38 and then 42. Boeing 777 production will jump from seven a month to more than eight.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.