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Boeing 737 MAX grounding an economic opportunity for Moses Lake

Boeing plans to hire a few hundred temporary workers, who could help boost the Grant County economy.

MOSES LAKE, Wash. — Boeing’s 737 MAX crisis is turning into a temporary economic boost for Grant County, where the company plans to hire “a few hundred” temporary employees to maintain a growing fleet of aircraft with nowhere to go.

“We actually have resumes upstairs right now because people were so excited about it that they just wanted to send one to someone out here to get the ball rolling,” said Rich Mueller, director of the Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake.

At least 50 737 MAX airplanes are parked at the airport and more are on the way.

Mueller said Boeing is improving other sections of the airport, well beyond the company's property, in anticipation of a lot more 737 MAX arrivals.

Boeing has been in Moses Lake since the dawn of the jet age. The airport, with 240 acres of ramp space and a 2.5-mile-long runway, is an ideal place for flight tests, just a quick jump from the production lines in Everett and Renton.

But the fleet of parked 737s is unusual.

“To have them land and to stay and to park, that's new for us, absolutely,” Mueller said.

Boeing said it'll house the new workers, provide them with a meal allowance, and put them to work caring for the jets, which will need move quickly to their airline customers once the FAA says they're safe to fly again.

RELATED: City of Renton concerned about impacts of possible Boeing 737 MAX shutdown

The jobs, though temporary, are an injection of adrenaline in the Grant County economy.

“We call them family-wage jobs,” said Brant Mayo, the executive director of the Grant County Economic Development Council, “We're always looking to recruit those types of jobs in the area, so this is a slam dunk for us.”

“You can see that translating into the hotels and the apartments and the grocery stores and restaurants,” Mueller said.

It's not yet clear how long the job opportunities will last, where everyone will live, or how much money they'll have to spend in Moses Lake.

For recent graduates of Big Bend Community College, which has an aviation program located at the airport, Boeing's hiring spree could help jumpstart careers.

Boeing said it is working tirelessly to meet FAA requirements to get the MAX flying again by the end of the year. Some airlines, however, don't anticipate a return to service until 2020.

The Grant County Economic Development Council says it hopes the temporary Boeing expansion will lead to more opportunities in the coming years.

“We’re looking at this a little bit too, as an audition,” Mayo said. “We want to show not only Boeing, but the rest of the world, frankly, that this is a great place to be. Grant County, Moses Lake... we have a great quality of life, we have a low cost of living.”

RELATED: AP Sources: Boeing changing 737 Max software to use 2 computers

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