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Originally published February 14, 2012 at 5:43 PM | Page modified February 14, 2012 at 7:46 PM

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King County, cities announce plan to bolster aerospace jobs here

Plan calls for King County to meet with investors and university research departments to explore ways to promote innovation, and it will provide up to $2 million from federal grants to spur expansion.

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

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Inside a small airplane hangar beside Boeing Field, South Seattle Community College student Mustapha Achir said he's aiming for a career in aerospace.

Achir has been waiting tables in the Space Needle restaurant for five years.

Upon graduation, he plans first to seek a job at Boeing, then later earn a bachelor's degree and work his way up.

"Waiting tables my whole life is not my goal," said Achir.

Achir was among the audience inside the hangar Tuesday as King County Executive Dow Constantine unveiled plans for local government to support and promote the local aerospace industry, which is expected to supply the region's best manufacturing jobs in the decade ahead.

The plan was developed from the findings of a $100,000 report on King County's competitiveness compiled by consulting firm Accenture.

Constantine quoted a statement in the report that "while the Puget Sound region has long been at the heart of the global aerospace industry, mechanisms to support public-private aerospace collaboration lag other regions globally."

"We intend to change that," Constantine told a gathering of officials, which included the mayors of Tukwila, Renton and Kent and the deputy mayor of Auburn.

"Boeing is going gangbusters," he said. "This is about preserving a vibrant manufacturing economy in King County."

According to the plan, the county will meet with investors and university research departments to explore ways to promote innovation, and will provide up to $2 million from federal grants for "below market-rate" loans to aerospace companies to spur expansion.

It will also support transportation investments, including funding the Metro Rapid Ride line extension to Renton.

The plan calls for county, city and state agencies to collaborate to streamline land use and environmental permitting for industrial projects and to compile a database of land available for industrial development.

The county also committed to develop training that will lead to aerospace jobs. Constantine's initiative parallels actions at the state level by Gov. Chris Gregoire. Both the state and local plans were launched as part of the successful campaign to persuade Boeing to build the 737 MAX in Washington.

The state's plan, guided by a separate Accenture competitiveness study, also emphasized investments in education and workforce training, transportation improvements, and the removal of regulatory barriers to industrial development.

State law prevents local governments from providing financial incentives to lure companies here.

Constantine said the county must work all the harder to "reduce the cost and time involved in permitting, improve transportation connections, and deal where necessary with tax policy."

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

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