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Boeing's 'trickle-down' effect returns with 737 MAX production

After a two-year slowdown, ramped-up production means billions of dollars per year infused into the northwest economy.

RENTON, Wash. — As Boeing once again ramps up production of its 737 MAX airplane in Renton to pre-pandemic levels, the "trickle-down" effect is already being felt regionwide.

Throughout much of the pandemic, the century-old company was on life-support, with the worldwide grounding of the MAX and global passenger travel brought to a standstill.

But now it appears Boeing is entering a new era.

"We're feeling good. We're coming back," said Bill McSherry, Vice President of Government Operations and Global Corporate Citizenship.

"People are excited for the future," McSherry said. "We are all excited to get back and be delivering to the levels we were before."

It's estimated Boeing infuses around $10 billion per year into the regional economy through employee wages, charity partnerships and through thousands of other northwest aerospace suppliers that produce airplane parts.

Pioneer Industries, an aerospace manufacturer in Seattle, is also now rebuilding its workforce with 737 MAX production returning to nearly 31 airplanes per month. Pioneer makes several parts for the MAX.

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"Business is great. We've bounced off the bottom," said Mark Behrends, V.P. of Enterprises at Pioneer.

Behrends said the company was forced to cut dozens of jobs during the Boeing slowdown. Pioneer used that time to cross-train and improve its operations. And now that it's hiring again too, Behrends feels that Pioneer Industries is ready to return stronger than ever.

"The Renton facility is huge for us," Behrends said. "There's a lot of airplanes that are going to be made and that's good too."

Boeing said it works with around 1,100 supply chain companies to help build its family of airplanes. Community Attributes Inc, a Seattle-based consulting firm estimated that supply chain work supports around 16,000 workers outside of Boeing.

After two fatal crashes of the MAX due to a faulty control system that prompted a worldwide grounding, Boeing and the FAA agreed to new safety changes that are designed to ensure the airplane was safe to fly.

55,800 employees work for Boeing in Washington state. That's by far the greatest concentration of jobs anywhere in the world for the company, with most in King and Snohomish County.

And this newly ramped-up production schedule for Boeing may just be the beginning. Reuters reports the company plans to ramp up production to 47 737 MAX airplanes per month by the end of the year.

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