Brier Dudley | Learning hard lessons from Boeing giveaways
If Boeing expands its 787 final-assembly line in South Carolina, it could be the latest in a series of hard lessons over the last decade about outsourcing, globalization and overarching allegiance to cost-cutting.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Can you believe that after all that fretting about Indians taking our high-tech jobs, it was Southerners that Washington state needed to worry about?
I'm talking about last week's reports that Boeing may buy a partner's factory in South Carolina.
Some believe Boeing's next step would be to expand the site for a second 787 final-assembly line, potentially Boeing's first new jetliner production line outside of the Seattle area.
This may turn into the latest in a series of hard lessons over the last decade about outsourcing, globalization and overarching allegiance to cost-cutting.
This time, though, the bogey man isn't South Asian but Southeastern Americans.
I wonder if Washington state will face the same humiliation as information-technology workers who had to train their foreign replacements, knowing they were about to lose jobs.
Remember, state taxpayers paid more than $10 million to build a 787 workforce-training center in Everett back in 2003.
Actually the training center was just a rounding error in the $3.2 billion package of tax breaks and incentives we gave Boeing to ensure the 787 was built here.
"If they'd wanted us to bulldoze Mount Rainier so their planes would take off easier, we'd have done it,"state Rep. Hans Dunshee told the Times in 2004.
The Boeing stimulus package was consummated privately by then-Gov. Gary Locke.
Could Boeing be the unfaithful one that South Carolina's governor was visiting in Argentina?
Boeing's engineering brilliance may only be surpassed by its lobbying savvy.
The company long ago mastered the politics of economic fear, threatening to move jobs elsewhere unless it had its way in Olympia. It worked so well the Seattle Mariners and Seahawks hired Boeing's former lobbyist when they wanted new stadiums.
A few years back whispers began emanating from Olympia about Microsoft potentially leaving the state, but it was hard to take seriously. The company went ahead and built an enormous campus expansion.
You'd think the state would wise up. A year after the Boeing deal, the company's partners decided to build parts of the 787 fuselage in South Carolina, in the facilities Boeing may now buy.
The company Boeing may buy, Vought, is barely hanging on financially; perhaps Vought should have taken advantage of Washington's largesse.
Meanwhile it didn't take long to see that the Boeing stimulus bill wasn't creating as many jobs as lawmakers anticipated.
But the tax breaks didn't cost the state as much as expected, according to a 2007 analysis by our Boeing reporter, Dominic Gates. It estimated the breaks would be worth only $2.3 billion to $2.7 billion to the aerospace industry.
That's a relief, now that the state is having to cut education and basic health care.
In retrospect, the 2003 deal was like giving a toddler a cookie before dinner, to entice him to eat his vegetables.
The toddler gobbled the cookie, took a few bites of spinach and tossed the plate on the floor.
Other kids at the table are hungry for anything. But you know the parents are glancing around, looking for another cookie.
Brier Dudley: 206-515-5687 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
About Brier Dudley
Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.
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