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Economist: 'We Owe 51 Percent Of The Boeing Machinists A Big Thank You'

Regional economist Dick Conway says even though we have lots of big, vibrant companies in the Puget Sound area these days, our economy still rises and falls with the fortunes of one, a certain aerospace giant.

And that's why he says it's so critical that Boeing's 777x jet will be built in Washington state after members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers voted narrowly to accept a contract extension. They agreed to cuts in hard-fought retirement and health benefits to preserve those jobs. 

"We owe 51 percent of the Boeing machinists a big thank you," Conway said at an economic forecast conference sponsored by the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County. "If a no vote onthe labor contract had meant the beginning of the end of Boeing in the Puget Sound region, the economy would have been devastated."

Boeing employs more than 80,000 people in Washington state and is the state's biggest private-sector employer. Conway says the company was not as hard-hit by the Great Recession and kept up healthy production levels. That's helped the Puget Sound region pull out of the slump faster than the rest of the country. 

"Having observed Boeing for decades, I continue to be amazed at how this 100-year-old manufacturing company still holds sway in our economy," Conway said. 

Conway says he expects job growth in the Puget Sound region to rise faster than the U.S. as a whole over the next decade. He says we’ll probably add about 300,000 jobs. 

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.