Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Did Washington lawmakers hurt efforts to win the Boeing 777x?

Ashley Gross

Boeing has sent a technical team to assist in the investigation of the Asiana Airlines 777 crash in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, the company is on the brink of making major business decisions about where the newest 777 will be built. Some aerospace observers, speaking off the record, say Washington state's recent legislative session may have damaged our chances of landing the assembly here. They say lawmakers failed to show Boeing the state is serious about competing with lower-wage states like South Carolina. 

Alex Pietsch, who heads the governor’s aerospace office, doesn’t go that far.

"Governor (Jay) Inslee had proposed several things that we thought would have been helpful to demonstrate to the Boeing company that we’re preparing to compete aggressively for the 777, and unfortunately we didn’t get them in this legislative session but that doesn’t mean we’re giving up," Pietsch said.

Boeing's wish list

Inslee and Boeing both wanted a transportation package. That failed, as did some other things on Boeing’s wish list supported by Republicans such as workers’ compensation reform and a fish-consumption study. That last one was opposed by House Democrats because they said it just was a way to postpone stricter water-pollution standards.

The legislature did come through with education funding –which a Boeing spokesman says the company was pleased about. Now Pietsch says he has to figure out what more Washington has to do to persuade Chicago-based Boeing to recommit to the Puget Sound region.

"We’ll be spending this summer analyzing the competition and trying to determine exactly what needs to be done and we’ll come back to the legislature in the future with those requests," Pietsch said. 

Lawmakers draw the line

Experts say Washington is in a good position to build the next 777 here. But South Carolina has been aggressive with incentives lately.

So against that background, in a state so economically tied to Boeing, it’s interesting that Washington lawmakers this time around didn’t go along with everything the aerospace giant wanted.

House Democrat Hans Dunshee’s district borders Everett, site of Boeing’s wide-body plant, but still he put his foot down over the fish-consumption study. He says there’s a limit.

"If they said we want you to lower the minimum wage so we can build airplanes with $3-an-hour people, we wouldn’t go there. No," Dunshee said. "And I don’t think we want to let them pollute more than they should."

The company says it just wants a reasonable solution and achievable water quality standards based on sound science. As for the 777x, Boeing spokesman Doug Alder says the company’s still looking at all its options. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.