An influential South Carolina legislator said that he received a call Thursday morning from Boeing's Chicago headquarters informing him that the company intended to present ideas for how it could expand its already growing footprint in the state.
The call to state Sen. Hugh Leatherman (R) came just hours after machinists in the Puget Sound area voted down new contract that would have ensured the 777X work would be located in the company's historic home region -- but at the costs of substantial concessions in pension benefits and payscales.
"Of course, I will look at any package they present," Leatherman said.
Charleston is "absolutely" in the running for the 777X work, Leatherman said, adding that the basic message from the company was "we're extremely interested."
"I'm disappointed the union vote up there was no when Boeing is such a world class company," he added. "I don't think they [the machinists] did right by Boeing."
Leatherman, chairman of South Carolina Senate's Finance Committee, played a key role in crafting the incentives that brought Boeing to Charleston. Those incentives -- totalling $395 million in two separate packages -- ensured that Boeing would bring a minimum of 8,000 jobs to the state and a $2 billion investment in facilities.
On Tuesday, Boeing broke ground on a new facility in North Charleston where engine nacelles will be built for the 737 MAX aircraft. The company already has a 787 Dreamliner production line in North Charleston and has moved some engineering and information technology jobs to the state.
Boeing operations in Alabama, Texas, California and Utah are also reportedly being eyed as locations for the 777X work.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Washington state remains a leading candidate for the 777X work, even after the machinists vote, given the large pool of trained workers, Boeing's existing facilities in the Puget Sound area, and the large number of suppliers located in the region.