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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Olympia

Boeing’s latest move: Is that a bead of sweat on the brows of state officials?

Much talk -- particularly from Republicans -- today about Boeing's decision to spend $580 million to buy a South Carolina plant that makes parts for the delayed new 787 aircraft.

First out of the gate, at 5:45 a.m. this morning, was the governor's office, releasing this statement by Gov. Chris Gregoire:

“Yesterday, I spoke with Scott Carson, who informed me of Boeing’s decision to purchase the Vought facility in South Carolina. I recognize that this announcement underscores that Boeing wants to ensure that it manufactures the 787 Dreamliner as efficiently as possible, thus they have made the decision to buy Vought. In my conversation with Scott, he assured that no decision has been made on a potential second line for the 787, and that today’s announcement doesn’t have anything to do with that. Washington state is proud to be home of the world’s best airplane manufacturer and most skilled aerospace workforce.”

State officials are clearly nervous at the prospect of Boeing launching a full-on jet assembly line anywhere outside Washington state. Those same jitters are what prompted then-Gov. Gary Locke to champion a $3 billion package of tax incentives for the company in 2004.

Republicans and business leaders seized on the move as evidence that Washington's not doing all it can to keep the massive employer (and taxpayer) expanding here. Most pointed to strikes by Boeing workers as a big part of the problem.

"Work stoppages over the past several years have cost Boeing $9 billion in revenue and $2 billion in lost profits -- and Washington had the most aerospace work stoppage days of any state in which the company does business," said state Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla.

Hewitt cited a recent aerospace competitiveness report that listed top concerns as labor-management relations and costs like unemployment insurance, workers' compensation and taxes. He blasted Democrats for "a myriad of business-busting bills" in Olympia. And he said that Boeing and other aerospace jobs are 15 percent of the state's economy.

Business leaders issued their own, similar statements. A sampling:

"Unless things change, Boeing's future will be outside the Northwest and that will be devastating to the Washington economy...Airlines simply can't make billion-dollar decisions on new aircraft and then face the prospect of delivery delays because of labor disputes...If Seattle wants to keep Boeing, they better stand up and show it, because there are dozens of other states that will welcome the jobs and the economic activity."
-John Stanton, chairman of the Washington Roundtable

"Boeing and aerospace are as important to the vitality of this region as the Mariners and the Seahawks. They need to know how much they are valued."
-Phil Bussey, Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce president

"This is our wake-up call."
-Don Brunell, Association of Washington Business president

Short takes and breaking news from the Washington Legislature and the state capital.