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New Alliance Aims to Land Boeing 737 MAX

A 16-member group wants to keep the work in King County.

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced Wednesday morning the launch of an aerospace alliance aimed to “position King County as the premier location to build and re-engineer the Boeing 737 MAX.”

“Today we are here to team up and field prosperity in the region and get people back to work,” Constantine told about 40 people gathered for the announcement adjacent to Renton Municipal Airfield in the parking lot of the Renton Chamber of Commerce.

“The factories are here. The workforce is here. The ability to move goods is here. Now we must act to secure our future as the leader in this vital and still-growing sector,” Constantine said.

The Boeing Co., which builds its popular 737 in Renton, is looking for a location where it will build a re-engined version of the single-aisle jet, dubbed the 737 MAX.

The 16 members of the King County Aerospace Alliance are: King County; Seattle Port Commission; Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce; the Kent Chamber of Commerce; Renton Chamber of Commerce; enterpriseSeattle; Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County; M.L. King County Labor Council; AFL-CIO; Aerospace Machinists District Lodge 751; Renton Technical College; Shoreline Community College; and the cities of Renton, Auburn, Tukwila and Bellevue.

Constantine also announced a proposal to the King County Council for $100,000 for a study to assess the current state of the local aerospace industry and report back to the Council within 90 days with recommended actions to grow and support the local industry.

In addition to the $100,000 proposal, Constantine proposed $30,000 from King County to support the state’s aerospace partnership, also known as  Project Pegasus. Last month, state officials promised to boost aerospace training and lower regulatory hurdles to help land the 737 MAX program – more details here from The Seattle Times.

The stakes are very high, said Renton Mayor Denis Law.

“Renton has been proud to support aviation innovation and excellence as the home of The Boeing Company for 70 years,” Law said. “The impact of this plant stretches throughout King County and beyond. We must work together to support Boeing, its suppliers and the aerospace industry as a whole, and continue to demonstrate that this is the best place in the world to build the 737 MAX.”

The city has and will continue to work with Boeing to ensure a seamless ramp-up, he said, referring to Boeing’s commitment to increase 737 production to 42 planes per month year within two years. by 2014.

“Boeing’s recent announcement of production increase and the 737 MAX shows a great challenge and a great opportunity,” said Tayloe Washburn, head of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s Project Pegasus. “Our entire state is a giant factory floor.”

Washington state has more aerospace jobs than anywhere else in the world, and this new alliance is going to work to keep it that way, said King County Council Budget Chair Julia Patterson.

A healthy aerospace industry, and more importantly, the 737 MAX, will benefit the county three-fold: It’ll create jobs, help generate tax revenue for general services, and directly support the poor and vulnerable in King County, she said.

“Boeing has donated $20 million a year over the last decade,” she said. “We can’t lose that.”

This is an investment that has the potential to return hundreds of thousands of dollars, she said, referring to Constantine’s proposal.

The sound of jet engines firing up, a helicopter overhead, and small planes as they taxied down the runway provided a soundtrack for the outdoor news conference.

“That’s the sound of family-wage jobs,” Constantine joked.

But in all seriousness, he said he’s committed to growing the aerospace industry in King County.

“For my part, I just want to make sure that plane is assembled here,” he said.

The Metropolitan King County Council is scheduled to consider the proposal at its next Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, Oct. 24.

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