Tri-county group organize to keep Boeing jobs in area


by Chris Genna
King County Journal Business Reporter

Business leaders, labor officials and government representatives from King, Snohomish and Pierce counties have formed a coalition to keep Boeing jobs in the area.

The group, which calls itself The Regional Partnership, is part of a growing chorus urging The Boeing Co. to build its proposed new mid-size jetliner, the 7E7, in Washington state.

Boeing, which is also considering Texas, and possibly Kansas, for the 7E7 final assembly plant, is expected to announce in May the criteria it will use to make its decision.

The purpose for the partnership extends beyond appealing to Boeing, said Joe Quintana, a coordinator for the group. Its goals include educating the public that King, Snohomish and Pierce counties ``really are one economy,'' he said.

Boeing is the poster child for such regional thinking, Quintana said, because it has operations in all three counties, including parts fabrication factories in Auburn and Frederickson, airplane assembly plants in Everett and Renton, and Shared Services division in Bellevue.

``Our concern is a lot of members of the public think either that Boeing has already made its mind up and there's nothing we can do about it, or frankly ... would just as soon see Boeing gone,'' Quintana said.

The partnership wants to educate the public about how critical Boeing is to the economy, he said.

The group will develop a long-term agenda, but it also recognizes ``there are things we must do right now, (and) can't wait'' before the state Legislature concludes the current session or the special session that seems likely to follow, Quintana said.

The partnership's top priorities, in addition to keeping Boeing jobs in Washington, are improving regional transportation, protecting and improving ports, and improving work force training and higher education.

Boeing already has said those goals are necessary if the company is to build the 7E7 here.

But the issues apply to other industries, too. For example, ``transportation is a driver of the economy,'' Quintana said. ``Just-in-time inventory really means your inventory is no longer in a warehouse, but on a truck somewhere. If that truck is stuck in traffic, your whole production system is disrupted and held hostage by that traffic jam.''

The broader concern isn't lost on Boeing's Machinists union, whose president, Mark Blondin, is a member of The Regional Partnership.

``Our focus is on building the 7E7 here,'' said union spokeswoman Connie Kelliher. ``But we have a lot of members laid off and there's just as much at stake for them if we can create additional jobs in the region.''

``Few realize the importance of Boeing's high-skilled, high wage jobs to our economy,'' said King County Councilman Rob McKenna, a founding member of The Regional Partnership.

Beyond that, McKenna said, ``Boeing could be called the canary in the coal mine, except it's too big to be a canary.'' Boeing's decision regarding where it builds the 7E7 ``will send a message to the rest of the business community.''

The partnership's membership reflects its goal to be a ``bipartisan, non-ideological, non-geographically based'' organization, Quintana said.

The executives of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties are members, Quintana said, and because they are all Democrats, a Republican member from each of the three county councils has been added as well.

Five labor leaders have signed on, including the heads of the state labor council and the county labor councils for King, Snohomish and Pierce.

The heads of the Economic Development Councils for all three counties and of the chambers of commerce of Bellevue, Everett, Seattle and Tacoma are also represented, as is Steve Reynolds, CEO of Bellevue-based Puget Sound Energy, the state's largest utility company.

``We are in competition with other regional economies from Shanghai to Toulouse,'' Quintana said, ``and we need to think and act like a region. State and local governments need to align their policies behind Boeing's objectives the same way that Europe does for Airbus.''

Chris Genna can be reached at or at 253-872-6720.


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