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Originally published Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 3:44 PM

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Gregoire holds talks with Boeing rival Airbus

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire has been building a close relationship with Boeing's chief rival, Airbus, and said Wednesday that she was previously ready to recruit the company to build a new manufacturing site in the state.

Associated Press

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OLYMPIA, Wash. —

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire has been building a close relationship with Boeing's chief rival, Airbus, and said Wednesday that she was previously ready to recruit the company to build a new manufacturing site in the state.

Gregoire said she first had conversations with Airbus a year ago, largely to tout Washington's aerospace supply chain, and indicated at the time that the state was willing to work with the European manufacturer if it wanted to pursue a new plant in Washington. She said the talks were held with the blessing of Boeing, which is one of Washington's top employers.

An Airbus manufacturing site in Washington was a longshot idea, and Gregoire said the company had been set on building in the southeastern United States. Airbus recently chose Alabama for its new production site.

Gregoire said the talks initially were greeted with skepticism from Airbus, considering that Washington has long been loyal to Boeing, but she said those barriers have been knocked down and helped pave the way for other areas of Washington's aerospace industry. She sees a lot of opportunity for the hundreds of suppliers in Washington to work with Airbus, potentially leading to new jobs.

"They have a high regard for our suppliers," Gregoire said. "They know that we've got the best in the world."

Gregoire met with Airbus officials again this week at the Farnborough Air Show in London.

Boeing employs tens of thousands of people in Washington state, and Gregoire has championed the company's work around the globe. She congratulated Boeing on the success at the Farnborough Air Show, where the company has racked up billions of dollars in new airplane orders.

"I think this is Boeing's airshow," she said.

Airbus already uses some of Washington's suppliers, which build everything from tires to screws for the aerospace industry. Gregoire and some Washington aerospace executives toured an Airbus facility in Germany last year.

Gregoire's office said she and her staff have participated in nearly two dozen meetings with more than 50 aerospace executives over the last two days.

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