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Spokane representatives hear pitch from Airbus

Matthew Daly Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Representatives from Spokane and Grant County, Wash., were among officials from 35 states in attendance Tuesday to hear the parent company of Boeing rival Airbus make a pitch for a $600 million aircraft assembly plant to be built in the United States.

The informational session was hosted by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., the majority owner of Airbus. France-based EADS has said it plans to select a U.S. manufacturing site within a year, with hopes of building a refueling tanker to compete with the Boeing 767.

About 135 people attended the session at a Capitol Hill hotel, EADS officials said.

“We felt we got a very, very positive response,” said Ralph Crosby, head of EADS North America, who led the presentation.

Crosby called the meeting the first step in a process that should result in selection of a U.S. site within a year. States interested in bidding on the Airbus plant were given a March 31 deadline to submit a general plan for where the plant would be located and what advantages the site would offer, Crosby said.

“We wanted to give everybody an opportunity to participate — and we got a lot of participants,” he said.

In addition to Washington, other states represented at Tuesday’s meeting include Arizona, California, Florida, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Texas, EADS officials said. All nine states have Boeing operations in their state.

Other states interested in the Airbus plant include North Carolina, Mississippi, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

EADS has asked states to select no more than three sites that would be capable of providing the work force, transportation options and resources needed for a site to assemble the tanker, which would be based on the Airbus A330 passenger jet. Washington is offering Grant County and Spokane. The city of Everett, home to a massive Boeing plant, said Monday that it wasn’t interested.

The plant, if built, could employ up to 1,100 people to manufacture billions of dollars worth of midair refueling tankers for the Air Force. Chicago-based Boeing is also interested in building the tankers, and the competition between the companies is expected to be fierce.

Under Boeing’s plan, the planes would be built in Everett, and modified for military use in Wichita, Kan.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and other Washington lawmakers have denounced the EADS plan as a “slick campaign” to drum up political support for its effort to land the tanker contract.

“It’s a ploy to capture American tax dollars for a French company and French jobs,” said Alex Glass, a spokeswoman for Murray. “We think the tankers are going to be built in the United State and be built by Boeing.”

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