Will Boeing Consider Snohomish County for its 737 Successor Plant Location?

County officials and real estate developers in the Marysville area are “electrified” by rumors that Boeing may be considering a 1,000 acre site (“supersite”) south of the Arlington Municipal Airport as the location for assembly of the next generation Boeing 737. The Marysville site offers Boeing and its suppliers ample space to create an efficient local assembly line, a marked departure from the global supply network presently employed for the assembly of the 787 aircraft.

Boeing has been shifting away from Washington State since it moved its headquarters to Chicago almost a decade ago and transferred the assembly of the 787 to North Charleston, South Carolina in 2009. Should Boeing choose Marysville, Washington would score a substantial victory in maintaining this State as the epicenter of Boeing Aircraft production.

Lest proponents get too excited about this new opportunity, Boeing has not decided if it will build a 737 successor, much less where the site will be located or if it will use the global, cluster (local), or some other assembly model. There are other state sites in competition with the Marysville location. Paine Field in Everett (where the 747, 767, and 787s are assembled), Moses Lake (with its extensive abandoned Larson Air Force Base), and Spokane (lower costs and an established aerospace industry) have all been listed as potential locations in the state. Pundits give western Washington (Everett/Marysville) an edge in the competition for the following reasons:

  • Proximity to Everett would keep manufacturing close to engineers, an issue that emerged as a result of the 787 problems;
  • The region has a strong tradition of aerospace work and training that could support a new plant;
  • Snohomish County has become the primary center of this state’s aerospace supply network, and indeed one of the strongest aerospace hubs in the world; and
  • Boeing would be highly interested in consolidating assembly north of Seattle’s traffic congestion, which now forces the company to truck components and assemblies between facilities in the middle of the night.

In addition to real estate developers and politicians, organized laborers are very interested in the outcome of this issue. Union representatives participated in Marysville City Council meetings where the issue was recently debated. Boeing union contract negotiations are coming up next year. Both the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 751 and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace contracts are up for negotiation. If the unions strike, that could impair Washington’s ability to win the “supersite” and drive Boeing to locate in one of the southern “right to work” states or overseas where organized labor is weaker. Labor stability has always been an important consideration for Boeing.

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