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Gregoire task force would pursue jobs

Fri., April 10, 2009

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire wants a new task force to keep Washington in the hunt for future Boeing Co. jobs, but she isn’t yet calling for additional tax breaks that industry consultants say are key to luring aerospace companies.

Gregoire’s task force plan, unveiled Thursday, follows some of the recommendations laid out by consultants from Deloitte LLP. The firm was hired by economic development officials to study Washington’s competitiveness in landing aerospace manufacturing facilities.

If approved by the Legislature, the governor’s Council on Aerospace would bring together leaders from state government, the aerospace industry, organized labor and higher education.

They’d be charged with coordinating job training, research and academic programs that aerospace leaders want, and regularly advising the Legislature and governor on ways to keep Washington competitive in the aerospace sector.

Washington is the historical home of Boeing. Although the company’s headquarters are now in Chicago, its major jetliner assembly plants are still in Everett and Renton, with other plants and offices scattered throughout the Puget Sound area.

The state came up with a multibillion-dollar incentive package earlier this decade to win the production line for Boeing’s new 787 jetliner. The state is now looking toward Boeing’s need to replace its 737 line and build more 787s.

However, the consultants’ report, obtained by the Associated Press through a public records request, says Washington’s “disadvantages outweigh the advantages in attracting and retaining aerospace companies relative to other states.”

Some factors weighing on Washington’s chances include relatively high wages, sales taxes, and unemployment and workers’ compensation costs, along with recent labor strikes.

On the positive side, the state has a large skilled work force, relatively cheap property costs, and comparable business taxes.

North Carolina, South Carolina, Kansas and Texas are Washington’s prime competitors for aerospace jobs, the consultants’ report said.

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