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Gregoire, Boeing boss attend Paris Air Show

Governor’s 10-day trip to Europe includes talks with BMW officials

Gov. Chris Gregoire is in Paris this week, talking up Boeing at the biennial air show and talking up Washington as a place for the aerospace giant’s next assembly line.

In a telephone press conference after the first day of the Paris Air Show, where she helped open the state’s pavilion, Gregoire said she’s trying to boost all 650 of the state’s aerospace manufacturers and suppliers, not just its biggest one.

That includes promoting companies that supply Boeing’s major competitor for commercial airliners, Airbus, she said.

At the end of the air show’s first day, Boeing announced $11 billion worth of orders and commitments for 56 jets, and Airbus announced $15 billion for 142 planes, according to the Associated Press.

“The aerospace industry is on the way up to peak performance,” Gregoire said. She wanted to tell companies looking to expand that Washington recently approved money for community colleges to train aerospace workers and revised its unemployment and workers’ compensation systems.

The state is vying for a possible new assembly line if Boeing decides to build a new jetliner to replace the 737, now assembled in Renton, Wash. Company officials said over the weekend they are weighing whether to update the popular jetliner with more fuel-efficient engines or build a new single-aisle plane.

Gregoire said company officials have told her Washington is the first, but not the only, place they will look for any expansion. “We take nothing for granted,” she said.

In 2009, Boeing decided to build a new line for its 787 in South Carolina rather than expand in Everett. That’s now the subject of a National Labor Relations Board complaint by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union, which contends that the placement in a right-to-work state was retaliation for a 2008 strike.

Gregoire said relations between Boeing management and the union have improved significantly since the strike and that the dispute should be resolved at a bargaining table, not by the NLRB.

Paris is part of a 10-day trip that already included a stop in Spain, where Gregoire talked with the company that will help dig the tunnel replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle. Later she’ll go to Hamburg, Germany, to talk with officials from BMW, which has a new Moses Lake factory to produce carbon-fiber car parts.

The estimated cost of the trip – for the governor, two staff members and three representatives of the state Commerce Department – is $40,000, which is coming from the budgets of Gregoire’s office and the Commerce Department.

Despite the state’s budget woes, a Gregoire spokesman said the trip is key to increasing foreign investment in the state and the sale of local products overseas. Said Scott Whiteaker, “Exports are going to be a major piece of getting Washington state out of the recession.”



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