Now that Machinists Union workers last week voted to accept an 8-year labor contract in return for Boeing’s pledge to build its new 777X and its composite wing in the Evergreen State, the competition for Boeing’s newest high-technology plant shifts to several sites within Washington.
While the state and Boeing won’t disclose what sites are under consideration for that wing plant, at least four are being considered: Everett; Frederickson, in Pierce County; Moses Lake; and Spokane.
Bruce Kendall, chief executive officer of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, said Monday that local development officials have talked with Boeing about using the 300 vacant acres at Boeing’s Frederickson plant or one of its existing structures there to build the plane’s composite wings.
Those wings are particularly attractive as industrial development recruitment targets because the aerospace industry is moving to composite-reinforced plastics as the basic material from which airliners are built.
Boeing’s first composite wing for one of its airliners, the 787 Dreamliner wing, is built in Japan by a Boeing partner.
Boeing, which makes the wings of its other airliner wings from metal, decided to build the wing for the 777X in the United States.
“Now that the voting is over, we need to re-engage with Boeing about the prospects for bringing that wing plant to Frederickson,” said Kendall.
Boeing spokesman Scott Lefeber said Boeing has made no decision yet on where to build the wing plant.
The new contract passed by some 600 votes, giving the new contract a 51 percent majority vote. Union members in November had rejected a similar offer from Boeing with 67 percent of the union vote.
The contract was resubmitted to union members last week after Boeing increased one-time payments to union members by $5,000, bolstered the dental plan and abandoned its plan to stretch out the time it takes new employees to reach the top of the pay scale.
Kendall said that the Frederickson site has much to recommend it. Besides the availability of vacant land that Boeing already owns, it already manufactures major metal wing parts and composite tail structures for the existing 777 and 787.
The Frederickson plant now employs about 1,800 workers. A consultant hired by the Economic Development Board estimated that as many as 4,000 to 5,000 workers could by employed at the wing fabrication facility at full production.
The Frederickson site will have strong competition from Everett, the presumed site of the final assembly plant for the 777X. Local governments have reportedly offered to build Boeing a wing fabrication plant there and lease it back to Boeing.
Moses Lake, the site of a plant that produces composite materials for Germany’s BMW, has the advantage of inexpensive electricity from Columbia River dams and a large airport.