October 27, 2012 in City

Boeing looks south of border

Outsourcing could hinder local industry
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Inland Northwest’s push to expand its growing aerospace industry is dealing with an unexpected obstacle.

Boeing Co.

Washington’s largest private-sector employer is actively urging its suppliers to explore manufacturing options in Mexico instead.

In a letter last week, Boeing invited its suppliers to a workshop in Chicago designed to showcase the advantages of sending jobs south of the border. “Several of our suppliers have successfully set up factories in Mexico because of the numerous advantages that Mexico offers to aerospace suppliers,” Patrick McKenna, director of Supply Chain Strategy and Supplier Management at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in the Oct. 17 invitation.

The outsourcing push, first reported Friday by the Seattle Times, comes as politicians and economic development boosters across the Northwest tout the aerospace industry’s growth as key to reviving the region’s overall economy.

Community colleges in Spokane, Coeur d’Alene and elsewhere have developed job training programs designed to equip workers with the skills needed in the aerospace industry, for example. Statewide and regional aerospace consortiums have been created to help expand the industry here.

“This does nothing to diminish the real assets this community has to offer,” Greater Spokane Incorporated CEO Rich Hadley said of Boeing’s Mexico push. “We feel, and studies have shown, that we are one of the best sites for Boeing to expand.”

The Inland Northwest is home to about 80 companies with aerospace ties. Although most supply Boeing, some also have contracts with other aerospace manufacturers, including Boeing’s chief European rival, Airbus.

Gov. Chris Gregoire viewed the development as evidence that Washington must continue demonstrating its advantages.

“This is yet another reminder of how competitive the aerospace industry is and that Washington state faces competition from every corner of the world,” said Gregoire spokesman Cory Curtis. “When suppliers compare our strengths to those offered by other regions, Washington state will continue to hold its position as a top innovator and world leader in the aerospace industry.”

Back in Spokane, Republican state Rep. Kevin Parker described it as a shot across the bow.

“Their announcement does raise some public consciousness about what they are facing,” said Parker, who believes Washington needs to do a better job of working with employers to foster a welcoming business climate. “What this tells us is Boeing is looking at the cost drivers throughout their entire supply chain.”

Staff writer Jim Camden contributed to this report.

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