Region unveils plan to keep the aerospace industry competitive

King County Executive Dow Constantine, at podium, unveiled Tuesday at Boeing Field a six-point plan that the King County Aerospace Alliance will carry out to reinforce the county
King County Executive Dow Constantine, at podium, unveiled Tuesday at Boeing Field a six-point plan that the King County Aerospace Alliance will carry out to reinforce the county's edge in the aerospace industry.
— image credit: Dean A. Radford/Renton Reporter

The King County Aerospace Alliance wants to use loans, streamlined permitting and a strong job-training program to protect and grow the aerospace industry and jobs in the county.

The six-point plan was unveiled Tuesday at Boeing Field by county Executive Dow Constantine, who convened the alliance last year when it became apparent that other states and nations were gearing up to compete for Boeing's production business.

"This action plan is our roadmap to supporting our local aerospace industry with an infrastructure that is faster, stronger and better," said Constantine, who was joined by industry and community leaders, including the mayors of Renton, Kent and Tukwila and Auburn's deputy mayor.

South King County is a hub of many of Boeing's production plants; a big part of Boeing field, the company's other hub in the county, is in Tukwila.

Renton Mayor Denis Law spoke about the importance of offering companies an efficient permitting process. The city worked closely with Boeing to facilitate what the company needed to ramp up its 737 production to record-breaking levels in Renton.

"One area where we can make a difference is making sure that our permitting and land-use processes are seamless across all governmental lines," Law said.

By working across those lines, he said, "we can make our business climate more competitive, while maintaining our region's high quality of life."The alliance will work to identify state and federal regulations that impede economic competitiveness, he said.

The county report comes three months after Gov. Chris Gregoire released a statewide competitiveness study which showed the economic importance of the aerospace industry to the state. About 89,000 people are employed in aerospace jobs statewide.

The state study, also by Accenture, laid out a multi-point plan designed to preserve and enhance the state's competitiveness, with a stress on improving education at all levels and training hundreds of new engineers.It was completed before Boeing decided to build the new 737 MAX in Renton, securing thousands of aerospace jobs in Renton and beyond and extended 737 production in Renton for perhaps decades.

The alliance's competitiveness study, funding by $100,000 from the King County Council, offers six key points in the plan, as explained by the county:

• By the end of March, enterpriseSeattle will begin meetings with angel investors, venture capitalists and university researchers to spur innovation through the creation of new firms and technologies.

King County will provide up to $2 million in loans at below market rates  to aerospace companies, using federal block grants in an existing “Grow King County Fund.

• The King County Department of Development and Environmental Services will establish a single contact point to coordinate review and to process permit requests at Boeing Field and its aerospace customers.

Seattle and King County will also pursue a pilot project to promote industrial development and job growth within Seattle and the urban unincorporated area of the county.

• Alliance partners will work with school districts to develop the next generation of machinists and engineers to replace those who are retiring at an increasing pace.

• The plan calls for the region to figure out how to move freight and workers more efficiently, including fixing traffic chokepoints, such as the interchange of I-405 and State Route 167.

"If we are to remain internationally competitive, we need to continue making new investments in our roads and transit," said Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke.

• Alliance members will develop a database of aerospace companies and inventory of available industrial land, then recruit new aerospace companies to fill gaps in the county's aerospace supply chain.

Auburn also has a web-based, property-tracking system for local real-estate companies. Nancy Backus, Auburn's deputy mayor announced that Auburn enterpriseSeattle will expanding the program to include all of King County.

• The alliance will collaborate with industry, other counties and the state of Washington to foster the long-term vitality of the local aerospace industry.


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